An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act to ensure the full participation of each House of Parliament.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

December 15th, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber His Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill S-3, An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Colombia, Greece and Turkey for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income--Chapter No. 15

Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament)--Chapter No. 16

Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts--Chapter 17

Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs)--Chapter 18

Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings)--Chapter 19

Bill C-464, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (justification for detention in custody)--Chapter 20

Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products--Chapter 21

Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act--Chapter 22

Bill C-28, An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act--Chapter 23

Bill C-58, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2011--Chapter 24

Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures--Chapter 25

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Canadian Council on Learning; the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway, Public Safety.

December 6th, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Thank you, Chair.

This is what was voted on in the House of Commons on December 1, last week, Chair. It was that:

The House resumed from November 29 consideration of the motion that Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (Involvement of Parliament), be read the third time and passed.

This was the vote:

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill S-210 under private members' business.

Now, Bill S-210 was dealt with in here, I think, in a one-hour meeting. Thanks to Mr. Woodworth and his good work and that of the Senate, it was passed unanimously. Then, when the Federal Sustainable Development Act actually came to a vote, they voted against it. The only nays listed in Hansard, Chair, are all of the NDP members. So I'm not quite sure what Ms. Duncan is trying to do in distorting the facts.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2010 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill S-210 under private members' business.

The House resumed from November 29 consideration of the motion that Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament), be read the third time and passed.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope of course that in spite of the comments of the previous speaker, this bill will pass with the unanimous support of all members.

It is very important to me that we proceed with environmental legislation in a democratic way. I urge the House to resist all efforts to judicialize environmental policy and instead to allow the members of this House, duly representing Canadians across the land, to consider the economic and social objectives of our people and to reconcile that with scientifically recommended options for the environment.

There has been some debate in the course of this morning's proceedings about the Senate, and of course this bill is about making sure that the reports under the federal sustainable development strategy are in fact delivered in the Senate. There are those in this House who would like to abolish the Senate. I myself, from time to time, have expressed the view that I am not a big fan of the Senate; however it is important for all of us, if we wish to maintain a law-abiding attitude, to recognize that the Constitution of Canada, the law of our land, does in fact establish a Senate and does give the Senate a role to play, and until the Senate is either abolished or reformed, the people who are placed in the Senate are very conscientiously trying to do the job that is assigned to them.

It is rather unfortunate that anyone would stand in this House and say that we will completely disregard the Constitution of Canada and say that senators do not have any role in our government, because of course that would be unlawful and I myself do not like to hear members of Parliament talking about proceeding in an unlawful manner.

In particular, when the Senate is faced with a terrible environmental bill such as Bill C-311, it is necessary for the senators to consider that legislation and to determine how they will dispose of it. It is completely irrelevant and in some ways irreverent and lawless to suggest that senators should not accept their responsibility to consider legislation from the House. As much as some of us would like not to have a Senate, as long as there is a Senate, senators have to be commended for conscientiously approaching their duties.

When it comes to Bill C-311, I spent hours and hours listening to evidence on that bill in committee, time that could have been spent much more productively actually talking about ways in which we can achieve environmental benefits for Canada, and in point of fact, the federal sustainable development strategy would do exactly that, whereas Bill C-311 would not have done that.

The previous speaker was somewhat disingenuous in saying that all Bill C-311 would have done was to require reporting. In fact Bill C-311 would have required unrealistic and unattainable greenhouse gas reductions. Bill C-311 itself did not propose any mechanisms or any means to achieve those reductions. In fact the evidence we heard at committee, from the Pembina Institute among others, was that the cost of reaching the goals that were set in Bill C-311 would have been about $70 billion between now and 2020. This would have been about twice the cost of the government's existing greenhouse gas program and would have only achieved a 16% difference in greenhouse gas reduction. It was a terrible bill, and whatever we think of the Senate, we can all rest a little easier tonight knowing that that bill has been deep-sixed and sent to an early grave.

Having said all of that, of course this is very partisan and I hope we will all focus on Bill S-210 and that we will all get behind it in a spirit of non-partisan attention to the concerns that really all Canadians have across the country.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2010 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill S-210 is before the House again. It is important for the House to reflect on the co-operation provided by the opposition in processing the bill through the House.

This bill came before us before the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, decided to prorogue Parliament and shut down the work of the House.

Regardless of the actions of the Prime Minister in failing to expedite the passage of the bill our parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development was entirely co-operative with the Senate and with the government in bringing the bill forward in an expeditious manner.

This bill would simply make the practice of the office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development mandatory. In other words it would require that the reports be delivered not only to the House but to the other place.

Why should we pass the bill? What is the point? The experience that we have had with the other house over the last two weeks really questions whether or not the other place even cares to hear from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

When I spoke to this bill previously, I spoke glowingly of the work over decades by that office. The office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is very important to this country. That division of the Auditor General's office delivers very important reports on behalf of Canadians, analyzing how well the Government of Canada is doing on delivering on its mandate, its mandate set out in law, its mandate set out in international agreements and bilateral arrangements about the environment and the protection of the environment.

What do we have? The government wants to require, not just suggest, that the commissioner also speak to the other place about the matters he has been working on and be required to report. The question I would put before the House is, what is the point? We have the circumstance of what happened in the other place in the last two weeks where reprehensibly, that place killed a bill passed by this House, by the majority of duly elected members of this House.

The Senate was created as a place of sober second thought. It was established as a place where there would be different representatives from a cross-section of society to look at legislation proposed by the elected representatives to see if there were gaps, to see if there was anything missing, to see if anything should shift to make sure that any legislation coming from the House reflected the best interests of Canadians.

What did that place do to a bill on climate change passed by a majority of members of this House? We have heard from many Canadians and I will share some of those thoughts of Canadians on the actions by that place.

Let me remind the House of a report delivered to the House by the commissioner himself in 2009. The commissioner presented to the House and also presented to the Senate an audit report on actions taken by the government on addressing climate change, on delivering on its own promises to reduce climate change. Let me again share with the House some of the highlights of that report by the commissioner. He stated:

The annual climate change plans do not fully meet the requirements of the Act.... Expected emission reductions are overstated for the Regulatory Framework for Industrial Greenhouse Gas Emissions....The descriptions of the renewable fuels and renewable power measures are not fully transparent....The annual climate change plans do not disclose uncertainties about expected emission reductions....A monitoring system has not been developed.

That was the audit report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development delivered to the other place. Did it listen to the words and advice and findings of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development? Clearly not, for it made a determination that it would simply throw out legislation passed by the duly elected representatives of Canada.

Despite Canada's support, and without debate, it simply killed that bill. We have heard resoundingly from Canadians that they are appalled by the behaviour of the other place. Let me quote from a letter by two of my colleagues, the MP for Halifax and the MP for Sackville—Eastern Shore on the actions by the other place, having heard the report by the commissioner:

Despite Parliament’s support and adoption of this bill, the unelected, unaccountable Senate voted down and killed this much needed legislation in a snap vote at second reading. The Senate killed the bill before they studied it or even heard from expert witnesses. It is virtually unprecedented for the unelected Senate to defeat a bill passed by the elected House of Commons.

Not only did members in the other place ignore the information, advice and audit report of the commissioner, they failed to give any opportunity to Canadians to speak to that bill and to express their opinion on whether or not that bill passed by the duly elected representatives in the House of Commons should proceed.

Let me share what one of the senators had to say about the actions of that place:

In voting to defeat Bill C311, the Conservative senators betrayed the democratic process. They did so without debating the bill, although they had 193 days to do so. They also killed the bill before it could reach committee stage where it would have received detailed study. And, they still would have had third reading to defeat it.

I have received letters from Canadians from across the country who are absolutely dismayed at the actions of that place having had the opportunity to see the testimony before the committee of this House, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and having had the opportunity to hear the speeches by elected representatives who spoke in support of that bill over and over in this House.

One person wrote to me and said that they were shocked and appalled to learn of the defeat of a bill in the Senate, a bill which had been passed by the House of Commons. It raised a number of questions and concerns.

Another letter written to the government and copied to the members of the opposition stated:

I am outraged at the cowardly tactics the Harper government uses to have the things the way corporate lobbyists...want them to be; this last one which killed Bill C-311--

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to Bill S-210, which we will naturally support, along with all the other parties in this House. This essentially administrative bill was presented in the Senate on April 30, 2010, and it would amend two acts: the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act. It would ensure that when the environment commissioner provides a report on the progress of sustainable development, this report is tabled in both the House of Commons and the Senate. That is the first amendment.

The second amendment would give the environment commissioner more latitude to decide when it is necessary to table reports on sustainable development. The Federal Sustainable Development Act, which is in its infant stages, since it was just recently passed, was the result of a bill introduced by one of our former colleagues, John Godfrey. He thought it was very important for Canada, and more specifically the federal government, to have a sustainable development strategy. I will come back to this shortly.

Mr. Godfrey worked with all of the parties to ensure that Bill C-474 would be passed. The Bloc Québécois did not like the bill in its original form because it proposed only a national sustainable development strategy. In addition, this bill interfered significantly in the provinces' areas of jurisdiction, such as agriculture and recycling. It was a national, coast-to-coast strategy that would not have produced results at the end of the day.

Following talks, the parties have decided that it is important for Canada to have a federal sustainable development strategy that falls within its own areas of jurisdiction. Thus, Canada will be able to meet the Rio targets and truly put in place a sustainable development plan using resources that already exist in its various departments. This strategy would also aim to increase greening of public services and provide Canada with the means to reach its international environmental goals.

That is how Bill S-210 was introduced. It will ensure that the commissioner has more flexibility in reaching the set targets. We need greater accountability and the environment commissioner must be able to report more frequently. Over the past weeks and months, we have come to realize that the environmental strategy presented by the federal government in order to comply with Bill C-474 contained targets that were vague, weak and insufficient.

Clearly, the government was just paying lip service to the ideas of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting ecosystems and oceanographic resources. We need a transparent sustainable development strategy with clear goals. However, that is what was missing from the strategy that has been developed.

The commissioner will be responsible for assessing whether the government has met those targets. The targets are inadequate, so, naturally, the commissioner will have a hard time in the coming years figuring out whether Canada is keeping the promises made to Parliament.

We need more transparency, more accountability and greater responsibility to ensure that the government is reaching its international targets. That is almost certainly what Parliament has been lacking these past 10 or 14 years. The government was unable to achieve its environmental targets at the international level because there was no oversight and no accountability with respect to Canada's commitments.

The best example of this is the fight against climate change. Since 1997, successive governments have introduced greenhouse gas reduction plans that were supposed to be in line with Canada's greenhouse gas reduction targets. But we are a long way from reaching those targets.

In 1997, Canada promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Where do we stand now? Our greenhouse gas emissions have risen by more than 25%.

Why have we failed to reach our targets? One of the main reasons is that there have been no progress reports. There has been no way to determine whether the measures, plans, policies and programs implemented are taking us in the right direction. The government can set greenhouse gas reduction targets, but without the right plans, policies and programs in place, those targets will not be achieved. The environment commissioner needs more power to present more frequent reports. That is one of the goals of this bill.

We have already given the environment commissioner a greater role. A few years ago, the Liberal Party's Bill C-288 gave the environment commissioner more power with respect to accountability for reduction targets.

We support this bill. We believe that the environment commissioner must play a greater role in efforts to reach the targets set by Canada and the federal government by focusing on three basic objectives: transparency, accountability and responsibility.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today at report stage of Bill S-210.

This bill was originally Bill S-216. It came to the House of Commons from the Senate and was sent to committee, where unfortunately discussion was stopped when Parliament was prorogued. It has now been reinstated. When Parliament is prorogued, the Senate can bring the same bill forward as long as it is identical to the original one and as long as it is done within 60 days. It then goes through the same procedure in the House. The bill is now at report stage and is being supported by all parties. That is a positive situation.

This bill would amend two acts, the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act. It would make primarily housekeeping changes to those acts. I will explain their importance again as well as the importance of the whole initiative at large.

The first change proposed by the bill is that reports would be tabled not only in the House of Commons but also in the Senate and for the Senate committees.

The second change involves the progress reports made by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development at the annual reporting time of the Auditor General. The commissioner gets to do one annual report. This change would allow him or her to report more frequently, just as the Auditor General can report several times a year.

In summary, the bill proposes to make two administrative changes to this important regime. The commissioner's reports would go to both houses of Parliament and he or she could report more than once a year.

I want to commend the member for Kitchener Centre for his bipartisan effort in making sure that we have taken a non-partisan approach to this important issue. As I have previously mentioned, all parties agree on this piece of legislation.

I also want to commend Senator Tommy Banks for his work on this bill in the Senate. This is a historic environmental bill in Canada. It is one of the most important environmental initiatives in our history.

I also want to commend the hon. John Godfrey for his tremendous work in getting the whole regime in place. Mr. Godfrey was my mentor in Parliament, and I was very excited for him to see this regime get through Parliament. The previous speaker has already outlined the tremendous environmental benefits that the regime would provide.

I want to talk about the importance of the two changes that the bill would make.

The first proposed change is that the commissioner's reports would go to the Senate and its committees. This was actually in the original regime but for some nefarious reason was eliminated. I am delighted that all parties saw that this was an obvious omission and all worked hard to put this initiative back in the legislation.

Sometimes we in this place and the other place have to remind people that we have a bicameral system in Canada. Like many countries in the world, we have two houses of Parliament. Both houses make sure that legislation, which is the foundation of our social contract and how we run our lives, gets done carefully with all the required checks and balances.

The Senate is of different construction from the House of Commons. One of the advantages of having two different bodies, if we have an understanding of group behaviour and sociology, is that it is good for a separate group that is not under the same influence to have another look at a particular piece of legislation.

The other difference is that the Senate is constructed to represent regions and minorities. Canada is a very huge country. It is the second-largest in the world. Its diverse and exciting regions have to be represented well in this Parliament. That is one of the roles of the Senate.

I represent the Arctic as the official opposition critic. Even the Arctic is not a monolith. The three territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut and the people in those regions, the Inuit, the first nations people, and the Métis, are totally different. We have to ensure that they are represented in our system. In the first past the post system, minorities are not necessarily represented in this House in the same percentages as they are in the population. The Senate has a very important role to represent minorities and to ensure that they are well represented in the affairs of state.

That is a fairly obvious change, and I am sure it will be unanimously supported by every member of both houses.

The second change is that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development would report more than once a year. The commissioner must have the ability to report more than annually, as is done in the present regime. I think this makes obvious intuitive sense to everyone on something as important as environmental change. As we know, environmental change can occur very quickly and drastically. This is crucial information. The ability to report more than just once a year would make eminent sense in the running of our great nation.

I had hoped that there would be in this debate, perhaps by the researchers of one of our four parties or even the commissioner himself, an outline of some of the reports, the advantages, the progress that has been made, and some of the failures. There was a reference earlier in the debate to a failure a number of years ago by the Department of Finance. Both the successes and the failures can show the advantages of reporting more than once a year, how this great success story could be used by other departments, or how some failure could be stopped in its tracks.

Not having real examples, I can only think of a couple of possibilities that might occur. Let us say a department in its operations was using a cleaning or air conditioning or some other chemical that all of a sudden was determined by Health Canada to be very toxic or cancerous. If some departments removed it quickly but others did not, that report coming sooner than later would certainly help remove some disastrous human health consequences.

As another example, let us say a huge district heating project was started near a federal building and a particular department of that federal building could have accessed that particular project and did not. That would be a fait accompli that could not be reversed if we had to wait a year for the report. However, if it were done quickly, the commissioner could bring up that point and the department could move ahead and make that change.

In conclusion, I would just say I am very happy that we have all-party support for these very important changes to a very important bill. Everyone knows the dramatic effects of climate change on the whole country, but especially on the north. We only have to look at last month's Canadian Geographic on climate futures and all the disastrous consequences. This bill and the reports of the department are certainly working as leaders for the country. If we do not do it as government, then we cannot expect other governments that are trying to do this, and businesses and private citizens, to move forward on making Canada sustainably developed.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill S-210 at third reading today.

The bill addresses an oversight in the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act, and I will briefly review how Bill S-210 would deal with this oversight.

The Federal Sustainable Development Act requires the government to produce a number of reports before the House of Commons. Bill S-210 proposes that the government also table the same reports in the Senate. The bill also proposes to give the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development greater flexibility regarding the timing of the tabling of some of the reports required under the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The government has no issue with tabling these reports before the Senate, nor does it have an issue with giving the commissioner additional flexibility. I believe all three parties will support the bill.

The wording for the existing provisions relating to the tabling of reports was largely borrowed from the provisions of the Auditor General Act. These only require the tabling of sustainable development strategies and the reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in the House of Commons. The bill would correct this oversight. The government is pleased to support the bill and will support the constitutional role of both Houses of Parliament.

The Federal Sustainable Development Act allows the government to spell out its environmental sustainable priorities more clearly. It requires the development of an overarching federal sustainable development strategy for the very first time since sustainable development strategies were introduced in 1995. This federal strategy would require every department to align its respective strategy to federal priorities.

The Federal Sustainable Development Act requires that a draft of the federal strategy be delivered to the Canadian public, to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and to a standing committee of the House of Commons for review and comment. As well, it would establish a sustainable development advisory council to be made up of representatives of the provinces and territories in order to have representation from labour, business, environmental organizations and aboriginal people who will also comment on the draft sustainable federal strategy. Delivering the draft strategy to Canadians in this way would help to increase transparency and accountability and it would help improve federal sustainable development planning and reporting.

Bill S-210 proposes to have senators review the draft of the federal sustainable development strategy and of all the other reports required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act. These include the supporting departmental sustainable development strategies and the triennial progress report on the federal strategy which is to be prepared by the sustainable development office in Environment Canada. Senate comment on all of these documents will improve transparency and accountability.

Further to this, a number of reports are required to be prepared by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development through amendments made by the Federal Sustainable Development Act to the Auditor General Act. For instance, the commissioner must offer an assessment of whether the targets and implementation strategies contained in the initial draft version of the federal strategy are capable of being assessed. The commissioner would also assess the fairness of the information contained in the progress report on the government's implementation of the federal strategy.

Finally, the commissioner would also continue to audit the departmental sustainable development strategies and report on the extent to which departments and agencies have contributed to meeting the target set out in the federal sustainable development strategy. At present, the commissioner can only table the results of such inquiries at certain limited times. The passage of the bill will enable the commissioner to offer more timely reports, as Bill S-210, in this respect, would allow greater discretion.

The federal sustainable development strategy is an excellent example of the democratic development of environmental policy. The federal sustainable development strategy would make Canada a world leader of the development of environmental policy by democratically elected leaders able to reconcile scientifically determined options with the social and economic goals of the people we represent, the people of Canada. I strongly believe that democratic governance is a far better approach to environmental policy-making than the alternative of judicial policy-making.

I realize that Bill S-210 is not highly controversial. Nonetheless, I am extremely proud that it is a bipartisan effort of Senator Tommy Banks and myself. I have appreciated Senator Bank's support and assistance and I am grateful for the unanimous support of the House for this bill to date.

I am pleased to support Bill S-210 and welcome Senate review of all the reports just mentioned and additional flexibility for the commissioner. I invite my friends from all parties throughout this House to join with me in focusing on the common concerns of all Canadians and support this bill.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 7th, 2010 / 10 a.m.
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Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I have the great honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in relation to Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament).

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendments.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

October 1st, 2010 / 8:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to extend my thanks to my colleagues for their support on this bill. I am very grateful that the bill has been an example of non-partisan consideration, even if it is just somewhat of a non-controversial one.

I am also grateful to the Liberal Senator Tommy Banks for proposing the bill and for his efforts in drafting it and promoting it. I am grateful to him for trusting me, a member of an opposite party, to sponsor the bill in the House.

This is a significant bill, as the member for Vancouver Quadra said earlier. Perhaps it might have been controversial, except that the bill is a model for three principles, which I believe are highly important in the House.

First, it is about ideas, not about personalities. When a member insults the motives or the character of another member, an opponent, it only serves partisan purposes. It does not advance the interests of our great country. When a member proposes a good idea, such as Bill S-210, all Canadians benefit.

Second, this is about legislation, the proper function of the House. The idea that the House can micromanage the executive branch is a dangerous one which is harmful to the future of our country. When the House debates and proposes legislation, such as Bill S-210, it is fulfilling its proper function.

Third, Bill S-210 is an example of collaboration. If every member demonizes his or her opponents, it should surprise no one that Canadians get the message that all politicians are a bunch of crooks and that Canadians do not bother voting at election time. When we treat each other with respect and collaboration, as Senator Banks and I have treated each other in relation to Bill S-210, and as all parties do in supporting the bill, we elevate the standing of every member in the eyes of all Canadians.

I really hope this message, which is really quite heartfelt from me, is heard by all the members in this chamber and by everyone who might be watching this debate today. My thanks, again, for the support of my colleagues for the bill.

The amendments in the bill reinforce one of this government's most fundamental priorities, greater accountability and transparency. Our government is committed to improving reporting so Canadians are better informed about the state of the environment. As members will recall, this act requires a minister of the environment to monitor implementation of the federal sustainable development strategy and to report on progress every three years. To do this, the government draws upon data available through the Canadian environmental sustainability indicators, or CESI, initiative.

To deliver the kind of accountability and transparency that Canadians expect and deserve, we need greater flexibility that existing legislation provides. It is vital to recognize that sustainable development is not a goal to be achieved in the usual sense of the word. Rather it is an elusive, ever-moving target. Even if all of our environmental indicators suggest positive results, we cannot believe that the job is finished and simply move on. To do that would jeopardize the lasting impact of our work and impinge upon the legacy that we leave future generations. As a result, we must always stay attuned to the delicate balance between our social, economic and environmental priorities. We have to monitor our progress carefully and frequently and recalibrate our actions as required. That is why the amendments in Bill S-210 are so important.

Though a key stakeholder was conspicuously missing from those consultations, in the Senate, I have no doubt that given the opportunity, senators could offer analysis and share insights that would strengthen our draft strategy. That is why I am pleased that the proposed amendments before the House today would enable senators to review the draft strategy, in addition to any other reports generated by the act.

For all of these reasons, I ask every member of the House to join with me in a great example of unanimity and collaboration by supporting Bill S-210 today.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

October 1st, 2010 / 8:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill S-210, which would allow the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to present reports not only to the House of Commons, but to the highly useless upper chamber as well.

Our position is simple. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development's work is essential, particularly given that the Conservative government's record on the environment and sustainable development is far from spotless. Although the Auditor General Act currently provides for reporting only to the House of Commons, thereby excluding senators from this kind of process, we recognize that given the existing structure, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development could present reports to the Senate as well. The Bloc Québécois does not recognize the Senate as a democratically legitimate institution—made up of friends of those in power, the Senate is anything but democratic—but until we achieve sovereignty, we have to work within this structure.

In his latest report, the commissioner stated that the government's progress—if one could call it that— toward providing guidance on greening government operations was unsatisfactory. We all agree that the Conservative government has thoroughly embarrassed itself on the international stage when it comes to the environment. Its targets are wishy-washy, repetitive, voluntary and open to interpretation.

Despite the fact that we are facing an international situation that will affect the entire planet, including Quebec and Canada, the Conservatives are taking the environment lightly and oppose any demonstration of environmental conscience. They are letting the oil industry ransack oil sands in Dene territory. These vile pursuits are ruining the environment and causing the whole planet to suffer. They are sucking oil out of the sands, polluting everything and destroying lakes by using them as waste-water dumping grounds.

I see my Conservative colleague nodding his head over there because I have obviously hit a nerve.

In short, the Conservative government's strategies cannot be effective because they are not results-focused. I can see that my colleagues agree.

We must develop a comprehensive, integrated plan. The environment is not something to be thrown in as a footnote to a report, just so the government can have a clean conscience, win votes from those who are environmentally conscious, and not cause too much trouble for the polluters. Polluters in this country are even being rewarded.

Although the government claims to be committed to being a leader in the area of the environment and sustainable development, it clearly lacks leadership in greening its own operations. When the time comes tackle all the things that can damage our planet's environment, the Conservatives' strategy is the equivalent of playing a hockey game without a goalie and with one less player on the ice. With the current provision, the commissioner only gives or lays his speech before the House of Commons.

It would not be such a terrible thing if our colleagues in the Senate, the pals of the government, Liberal or Conservative—it varies, depending on who is or has been in power—could do something else, other than play partisan politics. We know that basically, 11 out of 10 senators are appointed simply to be used politically in upcoming federal elections.

Members will recall the situation in Saskatchewan under the Conservative government. I know there are Conservatives on the other side of the House, although there are some who are not listening to the interpretation. What can I say. They do not want to learn; that is their problem, and a big one at that. About 15 ministers in the government of Grant Devine, a Conservative, ended up in prison or received heavy fines. We remember. Why did this happen? Because they cheated in their administration of public funds.

I lived in Saskatchewan, and I remember this Conservative minister who bought horse saddles on his expense account. It all came to a head, and on the day they wanted to fire their director general, he leaked the expense accounts of Saskatchewan Conservatives to get back at his corrupt party. I hope they are listening closely; they are tainted too. The judge asked why he had bought the saddles and charged them to his communications budget. He said that there was a big parade in his town once a year and he wanted his horses to have nice saddles, not small, $200 saddles, but $5,000 saddles. He added that he wanted the public to see that he had beautiful saddles for his horses. Can you imagine? He did not buy computers with his communications budget. He felt his purchase was a valid communications expenditure. He wound up in prison.

The other example I have is of the Saskatchewan Conservatives doing the same thing with computers. The computers were replaced every three months. They had new computers in their ridings almost every three months. Eventually, someone realized that these computers were ending up at an aunt's, a cousin's, a volunteer's or someone else's house. That is how the computers were replaced.

And that brings me to the Senate. Saskatchewan's deputy premier, Mr. Berntson, was appointed—

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

October 1st, 2010 / 8:35 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament). I am, of course, in support of this act. Its purpose is to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act so as to ensure the full involvement of both Houses of Parliament on these very important issues.

This bill would require that reports tabled to the House of Commons under the current Federal Sustainable Development Act by the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development must be tabled to both Houses of Parliament. Currently, as written, the act does not require these reports to be tabled in the Senate, nor are they required to be referred to committees of the Senate.

The second part of the bill seeks to amend the Auditor General Act to enable the Auditor General and the Commission of the Environment and Sustainable Development to make more than one report in a year. For example, if a key issue comes up on which they wish to report after their annual report, under this amendment, this act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development and Auditor General Act, the Auditor General would have that power to make more than one report.

How did the requirement for this bill come about? The requirement to report to the Senate and Senate committees was in the original bill, as written. Amendments at committee were made to remove the Senate, one of our key Houses of Parliament. I would contend that the committee members who sought those amendments were making two key mistakes. The first mistake was to underestimate the challenge of sustainability, which is the challenge of our generation and of our century. The second mistake was to underestimate and undermine the importance of the Senate and senators in addressing these critical issues of sustainability and sustainable development.

I am pleased that those mistakes would be rectified by this bill. I hope all members of this chamber will support Bill S-210.

I consider this bill not simply to be a housekeeping or correction bill or a technical amendment. I consider it very significant legislation in that it would restore the Senate to its rightful position as being a very important body, an important group of senators who bring wisdom to the table, people who have addressed some of the very complex issue of our time over many generations. Currently, senators address issues as various and complex as equity for aboriginal people, accountability of government, budgets and fiscal management, Canada's role in the world, veterans, human trafficking, the health of Canada's democratic institutions, defence and security, human rights, immigration, official languages, combating poverty, the environment and health care. All of the important complex issues of our day are thoughtfully addressed by senators and the Senate chamber with a view to improving people's lives and making a contribution to the public good. So, restoring the role of the Senate is a very important aspect of this legislation.

Second, sustainable development, as I have named it, the challenge of our generation, is a hugely critical and complex issue. What do we mean by sustainable development? I will reiterate the most common definition. From the Brundtland report, known as “Our Common Future”, sustainable development is defined thus:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable development, using this definition, requires that we think of the world as a system and our part in it as a system where what we do impacts others and other places and other times.

When we think of the world as a system, we realize that what happens in Alberta with oil sands development can affect the Arctic. We realize that what we do today can affect future generations. It is that realization that drives so many Canadians to be thinking of how we can address this challenge of our times.

The people of my constituency, Vancouver Quadra, are very concerned and engaged in working to meet the challenges of our time with sustainable development. From Southlands to Kitsilano, to Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale and the Musqueam lands, from Marpole through Arbutus, through Dunbar around UBC to Point Grey, the people of Vancouver Quadra are educated and engaged. They care about the health of our democracy, the issues of the day and sustainability.

The challenge of stewarding water for future generations, for example, is complex and it requires both Houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate, and the Canadian people to thoughtfully address and meet the challenges and sustain water for our future generations.

For example, in Vancouver Quadra I received well over 1,000 letters, emails and postcards calling on me to assist with ensuring that our Pacific north coast inland waters will be protected from oil spills. This is not about stopping economic development. This is about sustainable economic development. It is about the 56,000 jobs in fisheries and tourism on the Pacific coast that depend on the environment being clean.

In response to this campaign, I have worked with a number of parliamentarians and the Liberal leader has committed to a permanent ban on tanker traffic, where, I might add, there has never been tanker traffic in that area and we want to keep it that way. There are other transportation routes for our products from Alberta to go east to Asia. Those transportation routes will be able to handle capacity for many years to come and, therefore, it is not worth the risk to our waters to have super tankers in those dangerous and vulnerable waters.

The challenges of stewarding biodiversity for future generations is complex and requires both Houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate, and the Canadian people to be thoughtfully engaged and meet the challenges of sustaining biodiversity for future generations.

Many people in Vancouver Quadra are concerned about the fisheries and salmon. Runs have been unpredictable and the trend lines have been down. Many top-notch researchers at UBC are addressing the issues of salmon and any people in Vancouver Quadra have come out to my town hall meetings to hear about their research. People in Vancouver Quadra and Marpole have worked for decades to protect the riparian areas of the Fraser River, which is an important salmon habitat. It is not about stopping development or salmon aquaculture. It is about creating sustainable economic development.

These issues are complex, whether it is water, biodiversity, climate change or the involvement of our first nations so that the gap between the achievement of first nations in education and health and non-first nations is closed and those communities are fully engaged in sustainable economic development. These are complex challenges.

We need both chambers, the House of Commons and the Senate, to give thoughtful reflection and address these complex issues for the benefit of Canadians. This bill is directed to ensuring that the Senate fulfills its important role of engaging Canadians to find solutions to these challenges of our generation.

The House resumed from June 16 consideration of the motion that Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament), be read the second time and referred to a committee.