An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.



This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

This enactment amends the Federal Sustainable Development Act to make decision making related to sustainable development more transparent and subject to accountability to Parliament.


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.


Jan. 29, 2019 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act
June 4, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act
May 31, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act
May 31, 2018 Failed Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act (report stage amendment)
May 29, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act
Oct. 19, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

January 28th, 2019 / 12:05 p.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in Ottawa and in this new chamber. As a Conservative, I am dispositionally inclined to prefer old things to new things. However, this is a beautiful chamber. The architects have done a phenomenal job. It will be an honour to be here prospectively for 10 years, or shorter if my constituents feel that way, or much longer if things go the way projects in government sometimes go.

I know it has been an eventful break for some members. We had the resignation and then un-resignation of a number of Liberals. We are certainly hoping John McCallum does not un-resign as well. We also hope the Prime Minister does not see this important post as an opportunity to have a soft landing for yet another failing minister. In any event, there would be so many to choose from.

I hope the Prime Minister did not take any illegal vacations over the break. I suppose he would prefer if I called them “irregular” vacations. I hope the finance minister enjoyed his time away, as well. Perhaps he passed some truly unforgettable time at his villa in France.

I had the opportunity to meet many of my constituents over the break. Many of them are finding the government's approach hard to swallow, so I suggested they try plant-based alternatives instead.

If members did not notice, 2019 is an election year, which means I am sure we will get a lot of great non-partisan work done together. I know the ambulance chasers and un-Canadian Neanderthals on this side of the House sure appreciate the Prime Minister's commitment to positive politics.

However, none of us take the insults personally. We wish the Prime Minister very well with his upcoming transition to the private sector. I suspect that the response of voters to his policies will demonstrate exactly why the Prime Minister liked the idea of a basic dictatorship.

Before I get to the substance of my remarks, on a couple more serious notes, I had the opportunity to visit Taiwan over the break, which was a real pleasure. We have seen the increasing aggressiveness of the PRC government toward Taiwan. All members should understand the importance of standing in solidarity with our democratic partners in Taiwan.

There are many news stories that we see from time to time in Canada and around the world that jump out at us, and probably did during the break. However, I want to draw the attention of members to one in particular that jumped out at me. Prior to Coptic Christian Christmas celebrations in Egypt, a terrorist tried to plant a bomb targeting worshippers. In this case, disaster was averted because of police action. An officer, Mustafa Abid, gave his life as he sought to defuse a bomb.

Christians face challenges in Egypt and in many countries in the region. However, there are also many from the Muslim community who believe in their rights and work hard to keep them safe. I am sure all of us would join me in saluting the courage and sacrifice of people like Mustafa Abid, who set an example of sacrificial love and service to his country and to its minority communities.

I have the opportunity today to share a few brief remarks on Bill C-57 and proposed Senate amendments.

Bill C-57 sets out a legal framework for developing and implementing a federal sustainable development strategy and it seeks to make the process of decision-making accountable to Parliament. The act requires that all government decision-making is done with the view to the impact on future generations. In principle, I think we would all agree that decisions made by government should not be made merely in terms of present considerations, but we should think about the impacts down the road, not only on ourselves but on those who come after us. It is our responsibility to try to position our country in every policy domain for success over the long term to ensure that, as much as possible, the country we pass on to our children and grandchildren is even better than the one we received from our parents and grandparents.

Bill C-57 invites us to explore the mechanism by which that happens and the reporting mechanism by which Parliament is kept up to date on the particulars of plans by government that are aimed at advancing sustainability.

This bill was passed by the House, it went to the Senate and amendments were made in the Senate. Now it is up to the House to consider the particulars of the amendments and to reply to the message from the Senate that speaks to that. The amendments consider, in particular, the strength of the mechanisms by which the government can actually enforce its commitments, allegedly what it intends to do, with respect to sustainability.

The Senate saw it, as part of its amendments, to ensure performance-based contracts provided by the government to contractors and employees incorporated sustainability objectives. This is a laudable goal and one that seems quite naturally associated with the objectives of the bill. That is the second of the amendments we are looking at as part of the message we are considering sending back to Senate with respect to Bill C-57.

Unfortunately, the government has rejected this proposed amendment from the Senate. In the message, it states:

...because the amendment seeks to legislate employment matters which are beyond the policy intent of the bill, whose purpose is to make decision-making related to sustainable development more transparent and accountable to Parliament.

It seems to me to be a very strange basis for rejecting the amendment, since the intent of the bill is surely to improve the quality of decision-making with respect to sustainable development. Improving transparency is part of that, but it is not the only part of it. Also, the very idea of greater accountability should involve building sustainability into the metrics used in performance-based contracts. That is the nature of the amendment from the Senate that the government still proposes to reject.

The proposed rejection of this amendment raises many questions about how serious the government is with respect to its commitment to sustainability. Given the second rejection of this second amendment, we might consider how serious the government is about pursuing sustainability in general. Indeed, if we look at the actions of the government across a wide variety of different domains, we see its lack of engagement with this area of sustainability in particular. We have a government which is not at all interested in the substantive principles of sustainability. It might like to use it and see it as a buzzword, but it is a substantive idea in which we believe on this side of the House. I do not think the government across the way does at all.

What is sustainability all about? What is this principle that is lacking in the approach taken by the government?

Again, sustainability is about a belief that the decisions we make today should consider the impact on future generations. We should try this in every domain of policy. This word is typically invoked in the area of environmental policy and is an important concept in that context. However, across the board, the decisions made by a government should be aimed at passing a better country and world onto the next generation. We should not be short-term in our thinking and capricious about the direction we go. Rather, we should think carefully if the steps we take today will leave our country in a better position into the future.

What are the characteristics of this policy? I have talked a little already about the idea of an intergenerational lens, thinking about our own children, if we have them, or nephews and nieces, whatever the case may be and the impact this policy will have on them. It also calls for the exercise of the virtue of prudence; that is, seeing the world, the challenges we face, in the face they are. I know my friend from Spadina—Fort York, having read the book I recommended to him, After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre, will be more familiar with this concept now that the House has resumed; prudence in seeing the world as it actually is and making decisions in a judicious way, not considering simply how we might like it to be.

Some members across the way might like it if the way the world worked was that we could just run deficits in perpetuity. However, the reality of the way the world works is that we just cannot do this. As one former British prime minister said, either Thatcher or Disraeli, and my friend from Calgary Shepard will correct me, “The facts of life are conservative.”

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

January 28th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of my friend from Winnipeg North, I am not sure if he has read Bill C-57 or is familiar with the details in it, but Bill C-57 deals with the framework for sustainability. The member heckled to say that it does not mention immigration, but it deals with an evaluation of sustainability across government. It deals with considerations of the sustainability of policy in all areas.

We are debating a message to the Senate. The government's message to the Senate is not to concur in one of the Senate amendments, which would effectively deal with the issue of building into performance contracts considerations about the sustainability goals of government.

I will not refer to whether the member was here in the beginning, because it would be unparliamentary to do so, but if he had been here he would know that I talked about how that section really raises big questions about the government's commitment to sustainability across the board. I talked in my remarks today about how the government's environmental policy is not sustainable, about how its economic policy is not sustainable and about how its approach to energy—the fiscal policy—is not sustainable. I have made some comments here about our immigration system and what the government is doing with respect to our immigration system. It does not have a plan. It is not being effective in terms of its handling of our immigration system.

We believe in an immigration system that is orderly, compassionate and legal. Canadians who see people walk across the border—people who want to come to Canada—want to see the process be fair and orderly. I said before that, when it comes to immigration, Canadians want us to use our heads and our hearts at the same time. They want us to be compassionate and strategic. They want us to think about how we can help as many people as possible and as many of the most vulnerable as possible. In fact, our immigration shadow minister, the member for Calgary Nose Hill, has called for the government to do more to facilitate private sponsorship of refugees.

What I hear when talking to different groups involved in the issue of private sponsorship of refugees is that they are very frustrated in dealing with the government. They see the government piling more red tape and creating more challenges for them when all they want to do is be able to sponsor the most vulnerable refugees and use their own money to do it. While the government has failed to properly respond to the issue of illegal border crossing, it is piling more red tape and challenges on those who are trying to privately sponsor our most vulnerable refugees. I think about members of my own family who were refugees and the benefits they had coming into communities of support. The value of a system of privately sponsored people who come into a system of support is that it works very well. We think that using that private channel and getting out of the way for these private sponsors can be very effective.

The member for Winnipeg North does not think this is a sustainability issue. However, I submit that it is, and Bill C-57 speaks precisely to the need for sustainable policy across government, for policy that can be indeed sustained in the long run, policy that can work and provide the best of the system going forward and also maintains and preserves public support for that system. When we hear criticisms of the immigration system, I think that the government immediately wants to polarize that discussion. However, from our perspective, there are things we can do to substantively improve our immigration system, to build greater public support for it and ensure that it works very well, and that is emphasizing compassion, order and legality in the context of our immigration system.

I will talk about another failure when it comes to sustainability from the government, which is to build a sustainable approach to Canada's voice in the world. If we are to sustain a strong voice in the world, it is important that Canada be principled and clear in its efforts to advance freedom, democracy, justice and human rights. However, we have not seen this from the government at all. We have seen at best a very inconsistent approach when it comes to the advancement of freedom, democracy, human rights, justice and the rule of law.

One area where this is really evident is the Liberals' approach to China. There has been note of this over the last few weeks. Part of it is not just the relationship between events in Canada and China, it is the changing political reality in China itself. We see more and more aggressive action by the Chinese government.

There are a few things to note. We see the terrible abuse of Uighur Muslims, the violent crackdown we have seen, something we hoped to never have to talk about again in the 21st century. Canadians are asking their government to speak out on the violent abuses being imposed in this context. I hope that Canada could play a role in building a broader consensus around the response to these events, working together with our partners across the world. Countries like Pakistan and Algeria could do much more to call out and respond to the abuse by China of its Muslim minority communities.

We also see a crackdown against Christians, ongoing abuse of Falun Gong practitioners, increasing abuses in Tibet, the breaking of the agreement over the status of Hong Kong, more aggression toward Taiwan and aggressive action in the South China Sea. We also have the very worrying situation of the detention of Canadians.

How do we ensure Canada, in a long-term way, can sustain a strong voice on the world stage in the midst of these events? One thing we should not do is discredit our engagement on these issues by having a vital post be used as a way to say goodbye to a cabinet minister. The government's approach to China has been very ineffective, in part because it has not responded to the situation with the seriousness it deserves. Liberals have not put the appropriate, competent person in that situation.

Also we see how the Prime Minister's admiration, his comments about China's basic dictatorship, have undermined the credibility of Canada's approach to this. My hope is that Canada would have a long-term strategy for saying how we build that voice on the world stage. Unfortunately, we have not seen that from the government.

I talked earlier about the issue of pipelines. It may be of interest to people to know that the government put hundreds of millions of dollars into the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is a Chinese-controlled investment bank that is building pipelines, not here in Canada but in Azerbaijan. A lot of people would ask why our government is spending money to build a pipeline in Azerbaijan as a tool for advancing Chinese foreign policy. How is that consistent with the values of sustainability? I would submit that it is not, but it is also a big mistake, a big failure by the Prime Minister, which is imposing costs on Canadians.

The government's argument for this, the reason it invested in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is so that Canadian companies could get those contracts. I have been to the bank's headquarters in Beijing and we were told that the bank has an open procurement policy and it will buy from Canadian companies and hire Canadians regardless of whether or not Canada is a member of the bank.

Therefore, the one argument the government had for supporting this multi-million dollar giveaway to a Chinese-controlled bank and entity of its foreign policy was to say that it was about opportunities for Canadian companies. That argument was blown out of the water in the first five minutes of a conversation with the folks at the bank's headquarters. If the government had actually done any kind of due diligence, it would have known that this was not the reality and that it was not achieving the objective that it said it was going to achieve.

As long as China is continuing this aggressive direction and is unresponsive to what we see as basic principles and values, why are we continuing to support this agent of its foreign policy? Why are we continuing to give money to this infrastructure bank? This is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

If I were a Liberal MP, I would sure have a hard time explaining to people at home, who are struggling to get ahead, why they should have to pay for this particular failure of the government. Why should they have to pay for the failure of the government to do basic due diligence on an issue like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank? The failures of the government, in this respect and in so many others, are costing Canadians and we will see, as it continues to fail and tries at every turn to increase taxes, the real and growing costs of those failures on Canadians. A sustainable voice for Canada on the world stage should seek to advance our values, put those forward and do so in an effective way.

Bill C-57 seeks to introduce a sustainability framework for the government. It comes out of a report that was done at the environment committee and I think speaks in general to an important principle, the principle being that the decisions the government makes should be made with an eye to the future, that all the things government does should consider the impact on future generations, not just the impact on today, and that the way we approach every policy on immigration, foreign policy, the environment or the economy should not just be made with an eye to today but should be made with an eye to tomorrow. Why? Because if we fail to consider the impact of policies on tomorrow, then we will end up imposing additional costs and challenges for the future.

I am sorry to say this is exactly what we have seen from the government. Its lack of attention to the issue of long-term sustainability has led it to pursue policies that are imposing significant costs on Canadians and will continue to impose escalating costs on Canadians. Liberals are increasing taxes. Why? Because of their failure to take the steps necessary in all of these policy areas to strengthen our economy. This is imposing costs on Canadians.

We know that if they are successful in the next election, their plan is to impose higher taxes, to impose new costs. In the area of the carbon tax, for example, we see how they have imposed a carbon tax that is hurting Canadians who are struggling to get ahead and they will increase that carbon tax significantly. They will use every excuse they can to increase the carbon tax.

They are failing to pursue sustainable policy in so many areas, and that is why, in this message to the Senate, Liberals propose to reject the second amendment that was put forward. The second amendment proposes:

Performance-based contracts with the Government of Canada, including employment contracts, shall, where applicable, include provisions for meeting the applicable goals and targets referred to in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and any applicable strategy developed under section 11.

The amendment goes on to clarify the exact mechanism by which that would take place. It speaks precisely to how things would proceed in the context of employment contracts building sustainability there. The Senate, I think, wisely understands that if we are going to take an approach to sustainability—

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

January 28th, 2019 / 3:40 p.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I have just been accused by the member for Winnipeg North of being verbose. That is truly incredible. It is almost like when the Prime Minister accuses other people of standing by the wealthy. This is a pattern of the Liberals that we see in so many areas. After being critical of the length of my remarks, he asked what the Conservative approach was to Bill C-57, as if he had not heard my remarks at all.

Let me just say, in summary of those remarks, that we believe in the importance of a sustainable approach across the board, an approach that involves thinking about the impacts the decisions we take today will have on the future. That is why we believe in a balanced budget. We know that the government's deficits will lead to further attempts by the government to increase taxes. If it gets a chance to do that after the next election, we can be sure that it will take every opportunity to raise taxes.

All of the failures of the Prime Minister when it comes to balancing the budget, when it comes to thinking ahead, will have concrete costs for Canadians.

On this side of the House, our approach to Bill C-57, our approach to sustainability, is to look for ways to ensure that Canadians can get ahead over the long term.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

January 28th, 2019 / 4:20 p.m.
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Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in our new chamber to speak to Bill C-57 and to continue to represent the people of Whitby, who have graciously allowed me to be here and who I know are very interested in the environment and issues that relate to the sustainable development goals.

I be splitting my time with the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

The bill responds to a number of recommendations from the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. I would like to thank the committee members in this place and the other place for ensuring we have legislation that focuses on ensuring increased accountability by departments and agencies for setting and achieving a very ambitious sustainable development target, one that promotes close collaboration with all agencies through a whole-of-government approach. It sets a higher bar with respect to transparency, with improved reporting, oversight and continued conversations with indigenous peoples and individuals right across Canada to respect diversity and gender parity. It provides improvements through our robust and wholesome look at a federal sustainable development strategy, ensuring it incorporates the different views of Canadians across our country.

We have released the draft 2019-2022 federal sustainable development strategy. It is open for comment by Canadians until April 2. We want Canadians to help make the strategy stronger, so I would invite individuals to provide their commentary on that. The sustainable development goals data hub is on the Statistics Canada website.

I get a lot of questions from young people. Millennial kids, for example, email me and are seized with what we are doing as a government to ensure we keep on top of our commitments around sustainable development, particularly the environment, and to ensure we leave a world that is better for them, our children and grandchildren.

I happened to be part of the delegation that went to the UN last year with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, at which Canada gave its voluntary national review on sustainable development. It was a great moment for Canada to be there to express its commitment to a whole-of-government approach to sustainable development.

Today we are talking about the amendments that came from the other place. We accepted amendments 1 and 3. I know that other colleagues have questioned why our government did not accept amendment 2 to have incorporated in some of the contracts the sustainable development goals and targets. We have not supported this amendment because it goes beyond the policy intent of the legislation, which purpose is to make decision-making related to sustainable development more transparent and subject to accountability to Parliament.

I want to reference the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and member of Parliament for Central Nova. Last year, he spoke to the legislation quite passionately. In his comments on amendment 2, he spoke to the 2018 report, a progress report that shows that we are on target to meet many of the targets set forth in the 2016-2019 development strategy. In particular, in December 2017, he spoke to the fact that almost 8% of coastal marine areas were being conserved or were on track to reach our target of 10% by 2020.

He also referenced reducing greenhouse gas emissions from federal government buildings and fleets. We have achieved a 28% reduction in GHG emissions relative to 2005, more than half way to our target of 40% by 2030. The progress report highlights that we are well on our way to achieving this target. When we talk about protecting terrestrial areas and inland waters, we are not moving fast enough. Through having a whole-of-government approach and legislation that focuses on ensuring we are measuring those targets, we are able to see where we are doing well.

I mentioned our marine and government approach to reducing GHGs and where we could improve. We saw that we were not moving fast enough to protect our terrestrial and inland waters. Therefore, in budget 2018, we invested $1.3 billion in biodiversity and conservation to help us bolster that target and ensure we keep on track.

I would like to outline some of our government's accomplishments. We have heard others in this place talk about what we have done on the environment and our environmental stewardship, as well as putting a price on pollution, our insistence that polluters pay for the damage they do to our country. However, more important, we cannot just look at climate change in a silo.

One of the principles of the legislation is to ensure there is a whole-of-government approach. We have taken initiatives to ensure that climate change does not negatively or disproportionately impact individuals in our society who may not have a lot of means. We introduced Canada's first-ever poverty reduction strategy. That is built upon previous investments from the Canada child benefit, our national housing strategy, our public transit investments and our investments in the Canada workers benefit. We know that individuals who are working to become part of the middle class tend to be more negatively impacted by climate change, so we have to put in buffers. We have to put in place the means to ensure those individuals are well protected.

We know women and children are often the first to feel the brunt of the impact of climate change. We have a strategy around gender equality, ensuring we are looking at the legislation that comes before us through a gender lens and ensuring that women are given the opportunities they need to thrive in Canada and do so successfully.

For our indigenous population, we are working toward ensuring long-term water advisories are lifted by March of 2021. We are well on our way to doing that.

A number of initiatives need to be put in place to ensure we are not looking at the impacts of climate change in a silo. We have taken leadership around ensuring our climate plan is secure. However, we have also put forward different initiatives to ensure all Canadians, no matter their means, no matter their diversity, are able to have a sustainable future in our country. While we look to protect our environment, we also need to have the capacity to grow our economy and have good, well-paying jobs not just now but in the future.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

January 28th, 2019 / 4:35 p.m.
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Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, hon. colleagues, I am delighted to be back in the House of Commons. I am especially pleased to have the privilege of speaking in this new chamber.

I rise today to speak to the Senate's amendments to Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act. I want to thank the hon. senators for their time and efforts in reviewing this bill.

I would like to take this opportunity to provide a brief overview of how this bill aligns with the government’s commitments around delivering real results, pursuing goals with a renewed sense of collaboration, and setting a higher bar for transparency. I will continue with a discussion of the amendments adopted by the Senate.

This bill is a reflection of the Government of Canada’s commitment to sustainable development and safeguarding the interests of future generations. We all want a sustainable future for Canada, for our children and for our grandchildren. This bill clearly shows that sustainable development and the environment are at the forefront of government decision making.

This bill ensures that federal organizations bound by the act contribute to the development of federal sustainable development strategies and progress reports. In developing sustainable development strategies, federal organizations are to consider a number of principles, including the principle of intergenerational equity.

The bill indicates that targets must be measurable and include a time frame. That and the inclusion of the principle of results and delivery will help MPs, senators and the general public to keep track of the government's progress in meeting the goals and targets set out in each strategy every three years. This would incorporate the government’s strong focus on results into legislation.

The federal sustainable development strategy and its progress reports are a collaborative effort involving many departments and agencies. Bill C-57 would contribute to an integrated, whole-of-government view of activities supporting environmental sustainability. One way in which this would be achieved is by extending the Federal Sustainable Development Act’s coverage to over 90 federal organizations and enable further expansion of coverage over time.

The sustainable development strategies developed by these federal organizations will support the Federal Sustainable Development Act’s commitment to make environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable to Parliament.

Going forward, parliamentarians and relevant standing committees in both houses would have a greater ability to hold the government accountable for these sustainable development goals and targets. This would give committees a comprehensive view of what government organizations are doing with respect to sustainable development and the results achieved.

This bill received strong support from all parties of the House of Commons, where it was unanimously passed, and I hope that it will continue to be fully supported in the message we will send to the Senate.

I would now like to talk about the Senate's amendments.

First, the Senate agreed to some consequential amendments to bring the Auditor General Act in line with the changes made to the Federal Sustainable Development Act in Bill C-57. This reaffirms the commissioner's role under the Federal Sustainable Development Act and is supported by the government.

A second amendment was made to broaden the mandate of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council and not limit its advice on sustainable development matters to issues referred to it by the Minister of the Environment. Prior to this amendment, the bill stated that council members were to advise the minister on any matter related to sustainable development that is referred to the council by the minister. It is standard practice for ministerial advisory councils to provide advice on issues referred to them by the minister in charge. Defining the mandate of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council within the bill was meant to set clear parameters of its work. Although this amendment goes beyond our original intent, the government can accept it.

The third amendment would reinsert a section of the act that was removed. The current wording of the act stipulates that performance-based contracts with the Government of Canada must include provisions for meeting the applicable goals and targets referred to in the federal sustainable development strategy and the departmental sustainable development strategies.

It is the government's view that this section pertains to procurement. The alignment of procurement to environmental objectives is already included in the Treasury Board’s policy on green procurement, and that is why the government decided to repeal that section.

Also, Bill C-57 introduces section 10.1, which states that the Treasury Board may establish policies or issue directives applicable to designated entities governed by the Federal Sustainable Development Act in relation to the sustainable development impact of their operations. This explicitly recognizes the Treasury Board's role with respect to the impact of government operations on sustainable development.

On top of the fact that it is not appropriate to reinsert this section as written, the amendment further specifies that performance-based contracts include employment contracts and that they should include provisions for meeting the applicable goals and targets referred to in the federal sustainable development strategy as well as any applicable strategy developed under section 11.

The government does not support this amendment as this bill is not the appropriate legislation to prescribe what should be in employment contracts. Employment contracts are not easily defined, given their broad and wide-ranging nature. Moreover, this change is beyond the policy intent of a bill whose purpose is to make decision-making related to sustainable development more transparent and subject to accountability to Parliament.

Given all the provisions in the bill that strengthen other accountability measures, including identifying a minister responsible for each target in the federal sustainable development strategy, and explicitly indicating that the Treasury Board Secretariat may establish policies or issue directives applicable to one or more departments in relation to the sustainable development impact of their operations, the government does not see the benefit of this amendment.

The additional transparency and oversight measures included in this bill will provide enhanced accountability measures for the results achieved. That is why I agree with the minister and I support sending a message to the Senate agreeing with two amendments and disagreeing with the change to clause 8.

Madam Speaker, I welcome the debate on this amendment and your decision.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

January 28th, 2019 / 5:10 p.m.
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Sean Fraser Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Madam Speaker, to begin, I would question the relevance of the member's entire submission on this point, given that we are debating the Senate amendments to Bill C-57, which she did not touch on.

In any event, she spent a good portion of her time on waste water. I would like to point out some of the inaccuracies throughout her speech. She indicated that the Conservatives took a regulatory approach. What they did not have was an infrastructure plan to allow municipalities to deal with their waste water problems, which we are doing right now.

She suggested that this whole side of the House is somehow opposed to the energy industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. I personally spent about five years working in the city of Calgary, the same city the member represents. I can tell her that this side of the House does have supporters of the sector who are working hard to ensure that we develop our resources in a responsible way.

When it comes to our plan to put a price on pollution, we have to start by saying that climate change is a problem. The Conservatives have yet to pitch a single idea for what they are going to do to address the threat posed by climate change.

On this side of the House, we do not think pollution should be free. We have sought the advice of the world's leading climate economists. They have all come back to the same point, which is that the most effective thing we can do to combat climate change is to put a price on pollution and return revenues to citizens. That is what we are doing.

My question to the member opposite is this. Why are she and the Leader of the Opposition committed to taking Doug Ford's approach to climate change and taking money from their constituents to make pollution free again?

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

January 28th, 2019 / 6:15 p.m.
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Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have been following this debate and the level of hypocrisy is over the top. I recall all those trade deals that the Conservatives signed. What did they erase? All of the environmental provisions. I worked for the original environment commission in Montreal. I will note that in the new trade deal with the U.S., the Liberals undermined the environment in that deal too. There is a lot of hypocrisy here about genuinely acting on the words.

I would actually like to speak to Bill C-57. I know it might come as a surprise, as everybody is doing his or her electioneering here. What is important is that it is one thing to bring forward a bill and it is another thing to enact it. However, it is another thing to actually deliver the mandate and responsibilities under that bill.

The previous Liberal government and the previous Conservative government, as well as the present Liberal government, have all abjectly failed to deliver on the responsibilities of sustainable development. It is not me saying this. It is the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, who is appointed and retained in that position by the current Liberal government to review how well the government is delivering on its responsibilities.

It is also important to point out that in addition to the Sustainable Development Act, there is a second law. I would remind this place that a cabinet directive is binding law. We proved that with the Friends of the Oldman decision which involved a directive by cabinet on environmental assessment before we had the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We proved in the Supreme Court that cabinet directives were legally binding.

There has been a cabinet directive in place on environmental assessment of policy, plan and programs for decades. However, successive Conservative and Liberal governments have abjectly failed to deliver on that as well. That comes in the reports from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The Liberals, of course, signed on, yet again. They love to go to these international meetings. They signed on to the sustainable development agenda 2030, with 17 goals. They signed onto that in September 2015. Maybe it was the Conservatives who did that. They committed to 169 targets and 230 indicators.

There were a lot of goals in that international agreement. We need to note here that despite an amendment that I tabled at committee, the government refused to incorporate any reference to the UN commitment in the bill we are discussing today, the sustainable development 2030 agenda. So much for the commitment.

I had wanted to raise this with a number of the speakers who stood, the Conservatives criticizing the Liberals, the Liberals criticizing the Conservatives. Since 2015, and I am only starting at 2015, the commissioner has delivered failing grades in her audits of government commitments to actually deliver on the responsibilities, both under the Sustainable Development Act and the cabinet directive.

In the fall of 2015, she found abject failure by four departments audited to even apply the cabinet directive, zero assessments delivered for 488 proposals to the fisheries minister and only one out of over a 1,000 proposals to the minister of agriculture. In 2016, she found only 23% of proposals audited had submitted the required strategic environmental assessment. In 2017, she found a mere 20% compliance by federal departments.

Last year, in 2018, the commissioner's latest report found that the Government of Canada, the Liberal government, had failed to even develop a formal approach to implementing the 2030 agenda and the goals, including a very narrow interpretation of sustainable development. We heard that today in the debate, a pretty narrow discussion of what was actually in there. There is no federal government structure, and we are not going to see it in the bill either.

Interestingly, the bill continues to give responsibility to the Minister of Environment and yet it is another minister who goes off to the UN to speak to the bill as if it is his responsibility. There is a lot of confusion out there among Canadians about who in the government is actually responsible for delivering on the responsibilities for sustainable development.

The commissioner found there was very limited national consultation and engagement, no national implementation plan, few national targets and no system in place to measure, monitor or report on national targets for sustainable development.

We have heard a lot of blathering in here today from the Liberals about how important the environment and the economy are. However, where is the commitment to actually deliver on those responsibilities?

Eventually we are going to have a debate on the bill. Interestingly, a good number of the amendments that are coming forward from the Senate to this place are exactly the same amendments that I put forward, which the Liberals rejected. So much for “we're all in this together” in committee.

I would note one amendment that is most interesting. The Senate presented to this place a series of three amendments, two of which were accepted. The third one the Green Party and I actually tabled as an amendment to the bill because the government, in its wisdom, talks about being environmentally thoughtful in its spending, in procurement, but it would remove the requirement that is in law right now that the government actually consider sustainable development when it is procuring.

Let us think about that. It was almost $5 billion to buy a pipeline. We might think that the government thought about whether it was a wise investment economically and environmentally. Where is the strategic environmental assessment for that purchase? How about the many infrastructure banks the government is setting up for private enterprise here and in other countries? Did it do a strategic environmental assessment as per the cabinet directive? No.

The question here is this: Where is the real commitment by the government of the day to generally deliver on these big promises it made to Canadians and the big promises it makes when going to UN meetings?

I attended the consultation at the UN, the big summit last summer. The government sent a big delegation. At the last second, it invited youth but there was only a handful who could afford to come. Therefore, we had a call for better consultation and engagement across Canada so that everybody can participate in this discussion. However, when we look at the goals, we are not just talking about the economy or the environment. When we look at those 17 goals, they cover everything. They cover indigenous rights, women's rights, agriculture and water. I am not hearing any debate in the House about the breadth of what we have committed to in the 2030 goals. The Liberals refused to reference those in the bill before us.

There is a second matter the Liberals refused to reference, despite the amendments I tabled at committee. They have refused to incorporate into the bill the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is one of the goals under the 2030 sustainable development goals. They abjectly refused to specifically reference that international commitment, despite the fact that the former justice minister and attorney general actually committed before the Assembly of First Nations that, going forward, her Liberal government would ensure that the United Nations declaration would be incorporated into every federal law. Therefore, they have broken that promise too.

It is all very nice that we have some amendments coming from the Senate, but they are basically pro forma. They are simply saying that we need to update the bill so that it is the same as the current Auditor General Act. However, when it comes to substantive measures, like being required to actually consider sustainable development when we are making major procurement decisions and when making major recommendations to cabinet, then no, they are abjectly failing. I would have liked to hear anybody in the government of the day stand up and say that, going forward, they were going to finally deliver on their responsibilities. However, I did not hear that once today.

To conclude, it was my honour to speak to the bill again. I remain committed to actually having a government in Canada that is sincere about delivering on its international commitments.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

December 6th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will begin debate on the Senate amendments to Bill C-57, the sustainable development bill.

Tomorrow morning, we will start debate at report stage and third reading stage of Bill C-83, the administrative segregation legislation. Following question period, we will debate the Senate amendments to Bill C-21, the Customs Act.

Next week, we will be debating various government bills.

I would like to remind the House that, in accordance with the order adopted this morning, there will be an exploratory debate Monday evening at the usual time of adjournment. The debate will be on the subject of the opioid crisis in Canada.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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Sean Fraser Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has helped shape Bill C-57. The contributions of many hon. members and senators have been invaluable to the process, and the bill reflects the hard work and collaborative efforts of many individuals.

In particular, I appreciate the Hon. Senator Griffin's efforts in sponsoring this bill and her ongoing support as it has moved forward. I would also like to thank members of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources for their thoughtful review and valuable insights.

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to recognize the work of members of the House, including members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, whose unanimous second report, “Federal Sustainability for Future Generations”, served as the foundation for Bill C-57. I look forward to the chamber's discussion of the Senate's amendments to the bill.

Today, I want to start by outlining the importance of the Federal Sustainable Development Act and how Bill C-57 seeks to improve upon the current version of the legislation. Then I will highlight some of the most recent documents we have released under the current act. Finally, I wish to outline our position on the amendments made in the Senate.

First, I will give some of the background. the Federal Sustainable Development Act was the result of a 2008 private member's bill. This was sponsored by the Hon. John Godfrey, former member of Parliament for Don Valley West. The act set out a number of requirements for federal action on sustainable development, including the creation of a federal sustainable development strategy and releasing a report on progress against the strategy every three years. These strategies and reports have been instrumental in guiding, tracking and reporting on Canada's actions on sustainable development in a transparent and accountable manner.

The catalyst for amending the original Federal Sustainable Development Act, as I mentioned previously, was the study conducted by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. Bill C-57 responds to the thoughtful recommendations of that committee's report and would update the act to better reflect Canada's current priorities on sustainable development.

The bill proposed to expand the scope of the act and provide a whole-of-government approach to sustainable development. It includes more than 90 departments and agencies and provides the opportunity to add other entities in the future as well. This will help to ensure that the federal sustainable development strategy reflects the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to sustainable development.

All federal organizations bound by the act will contribute to developing future federal sustainable development strategies and progress reports. The collaborative, whole-of-government approach to sustainable development will provide greater openness and transparency about our actions relating to sustainability.

Further, each federal organization will table its own sustainable development strategies and progress reports in Parliament. This will allow parliamentarians and relevant committees to review the progress of organizations and hold them to account for meeting their targets and goals.

At the heart of Bill C-57 are a number of important principles that would guide progress reports and strategies. For example, the principle of intergenerational equity, that it is important to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, provides an important context for the federal government's contribution toward sustainable development.

Other principles embedded in Bill C-57 include the principle of openness and transparency, the principle of collaboration and the principle of results and delivery. These principles will help guide the development of tangible, relevant and achievable goals and targets. The bill would also require targets in the federal sustainable development strategy be measurable and time-bound.

The bill would contribute to increased demographic representation and indigenous partnership. It would do this in three main ways, the first being through a new principle which would recognize the importance of involving indigenous peoples, because of their traditional knowledge and unique connection to Canada's lands and waters. Second, it would increase the number of indigenous representatives on the Sustainable Development Advisory Council from three to six. Finally, it would require demographic considerations such as age and gender be taken into account when appointing representatives to the council.

Bill C-57 is an important and inclusive step forward in the government's commitment to sustainable development.

Earlier this year, the bill was unanimously passed through the House with the support of all parties. I sincerely hope we can repeat that once more when it comes time for a final vote.

Our work on sustainable development continues. On December 3 of this year, we tabled the 2018 "Progress Report on the 2016 to 2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy” and launched public consultations on the draft 2019 to 2022 strategy. These products present results on where the federal government is in achieving its sustainable development targets and outline the environmental sustainability targets and actions it is proposing to take over the next three years.

We all wish to see a healthy, prosperous, safe and sustainable Canada, regardless of party, and considerable progress has been made toward achieving this vision over the past few years. The recently tabled progress report on the 2016 to 2019 federal sustainable development strategy helped show just how far we had come.

For example, the 2018 progress report shows that we may have met one target and are on track to meet the majority of the other targets laid out in the 2016 to 2019 development strategy. For instance, as of December 2017, almost 8% of coastal and marine areas have been conserved, on track to reach our target of 10% by 2020.

The government is also leading by example by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from federal government buildings and fleets. We have achieved a 28% reduction in GHG emissions relative to 2005 levels, more than halfway to the target of 40% by 2030. The progress report highlights that we are well on our way to achieving this ambitious target.

Just as important, we have identified areas where we need to improve. For example, the progress report reveals that we have some work to do on protecting terrestrial areas and inland waters. To this end, the $1 billion Canada nature fund announced in budget 2018 will help set us back on the path to achieving our target of protecting 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters by 2020.

This is one of the crucial contributions of the goals and targets in the federal sustainable development strategy and its subsequent reports on progress. They set a path forward and then tell us exactly how we have done and where we need to focus our ongoing efforts. Sustainable development is and will remain a priority for our government, and these strategies and progress reports ensure accountability in meeting our targets.

As I mentioned, the draft 2019 to 2022 federal sustainable development strategy has been released for public consultation. The strategy includes the participation of 16 voluntary organizations beyond the 26 mandated by the act. The draft strategy builds on the 2016 to 2019 strategy. It proposes targets, milestones and actions supporting 13 aspirational, long-term goals that reflect the Canada we want.

We expect to hear from a number of partners, stakeholders and Canadians whose input helped shape past strategies and will continue to be instrumental in helping to shape the 2019 to 2022 strategy.

As hon. members know, some of those partners and stakeholders include the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the House and Senate committees, which are responsible for regularly dealing with the environment, and the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. Our consultations are open until early April 2019 and we expect to hear from these groups and many other Canadians who are passionate about the environment and sustainable development.

This brings me to the amendments made in the Senate recently. The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources welcomed the bill and there was a fruitful discussion and debate on its various clauses. I thank everyone once again for the thoughtful deliberation. I would like to point out that the dialogue between the two Houses is a fruitful exercise in my opinion. I know the Senate considered the bill in a thoughtful manner and proposed certain amendments, which I am happy to address.

Three amendments were agreed to in the Senate. The first amendment was made to broaden the mandate of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. This change would allow council members to give advice on sustainable development matters beyond those referred to them by the minister. The Council would, however, continue to focus on the products set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The government is going to accept this amendment.

The second amendment, however, poses certain problems. The amendment to clause 8 seeks to reinsert a section of the Federal Sustainable Development Act that Bill C-57 in its initial form removed. That section deals with performance-based contracts within the Government of Canada. It states that these contracts shall include provisions for meeting the applicable targets referred to in the federal sustainable development strategy and the departmental sustainable development strategies. This section was repealed under Bill C-57 for a number of reasons.

The debate on the issue at the time that the original act was being considered reflects how unclear this section was, and still is. The Hon. John Godfrey, who I mentioned was the initial sponsor of the bill that resulted in the Federal Sustainable Development Act, said that this clause could be interpreted as a contract with an employee or a contract with a construction company. This confusion remains today. Having practised as a litigator in my career before politics, certainty in the meaning of legislation is essential so folks can understand exactly what their obligations are.

Some witnesses who have come before the House and the Senate have interpreted this clause as pertaining to performance agreements with senior officials. Others have interpreted it as pertaining to procurement contract and particularly green procurement. A clause without clarity is not one that should be in a bill.

If Parliament is concerned about procurement, the Treasury Board Secretariat's policy on green procurement already aligns environmental objectives to the departments' procurement activities, meaning this section's inclusion in the bill would be redundant and unnecessary.

Moreover, subclause 10.1, a new addition under Bill C-57, explicitly recognizes the power of the Treasury Board in establishing policies or issuing directives applicable to the sustainable development impacts of designated entities. The proposed amendment not only reinserts an already problematic clause, but it makes it even more problematic, extending it far beyond Bill C-57's intended purpose by entering into the realm of the employer's relationship with public servants. The amendment specifically adds employment contracts to the language on performance-based contracts. It says that these contracts shall include provisions for meeting the applicable goals and targets referred to in the federal sustainable development strategy and any organizational strategy.

It is the government's view that the reference to those contracts are outside the scope of the intent of Bill C-57 and it would be inappropriate to insert such prescriptive wording into the bill. Employment contracts are a matter for Treasury Board as an employer and they should not be subject to a bill whose purpose is to increase transparency of decision-making relating to sustainable development.

Given the expansive nature of performance-based contracts and employment contracts, it would also be difficult to determine what is meant by the use of these different terms, leaving the section option to difficulties in interpretation, which I flagged could pose problems.

Finally, tying targets directly to employment contracts is problematic because, as we know, the responsibility for meeting goals and targets extends broadly across different federal organizations and sometimes across many levels of government. It is not always the case that one department or one individual has complete responsibility for meeting the federal sustainable development strategy's targets. As a result, I do not think it is prudent to use the legislation to tie targets directly to employment contracts.

Accountability is the backbone of Bill C-57. It is what it is all about. While the intent of this amendment is to increase accountability, which I again thank the Senate for giving thoughtful consideration to, it is the government's view that the amendment could create more problems than it would solve.

As discussed earlier, robust accountability mechanisms are already directly embedded in the bill, and we believe they are more than adequate to meet our objectives. These include oversight by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the House and the Senate, the Sustainable Development Advisory Council and all Canadians. We release reports to the public on an ongoing basis and ask people for their input and insight.

Given the fact that the proposed amendment is imprecise and open to interpretation, the government does not see the benefit of inclusion and suggests removing it from the bill.

The third amendment that came from the other place deals with consequential amendments to the Auditor General Act. These changes would ensure alignment between the two acts and would seek to reconfirm the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development's role in reviewing the sustainable development actions of federal organizations. The government supports this amendment.

I greatly appreciate the time and effort of everyone involved in reviewing the bill. The Federal Sustainable Development Act is a cornerstone of sustainable development action in Canada, and Bill C-57 is an important update. I ask the House to accept the consequential amendments and the amendment to clause 5, but remove the amendment to clause 8 and send a message to that effect back to the Senate.

In the spirit of co-operation that we demonstrated back in June, when the House voted unanimously to support the bill, I am asking that we show the same spirit of unanimity in supporting this revised bill, so we can ensure the future is sustainable not just for this generation, but for generations to come.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 3:25 p.m.
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Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could be so positive about the success of the application of sustainable development legislation. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development gave an absolute abject failing grade to all the agencies that were reviewed. A lot of her recommendations for greater accountability were rejected by the government. The other place made an attempt to change the bill.

One of the main amendments the commissioner had called for was specific reference in the Sustainable Development Act of the cabinet directive on sustainable development. The reason for that is that this directive would require every department and agency to do an assessment of policy program spending that is submitted to cabinet. One subset of this is the provision the government is refusing to accept from the other place, which was also recommended by our committee.

Bill C-57 is in fact not based on the review by the committee on which I used to sit. It is based on what the minister decided she would do to keep a reduced function of the bill in holding the government accountable for delivering on the sustainable development 2030 goals that our country signed on to.

Could the member speak to why the Liberals are not accepting these broader provisions to hold the government, the departments and agencies accountable for spending and assessing what the impact might be on the broad sustainable development goals?

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Sean Fraser

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for a thoughtful question about the broader picture of why this legislation is actually important.

Sustainable development is something that I care deeply about and have cared deeply about for a long time prior to getting involved in politics. In my spare time while I was carrying on a legal practice, I had the opportunity to work as a research fellow on a pro bono basis for the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law.

Moving forward as a society and as a global community in a way that is going to ensure that the needs of the current generation are met without compromising the needs of our kids and grandkids is essential. Bill C-57, in its overarching purpose, when it was actually launched as a private member's bill some time ago by the Hon. John Godfrey, was to give some meaning to these aspirational values of sustainable development.

It is hard to achieve progress if we are not able to measure outcomes. What Bill C-57 seeks to do is make mandatory setting of targets and reporting on how far we have come in achieving those targets. What this actually leads to is regular reporting that is not just for internal use but made publicly available, so we can actually see how far we have come.

I have mentioned, in particular, that because of this reporting requirement, we know that we are on track to meet, for example, our marine conservation targets by 2020. However, we have a bit of work to do to meet our 2020 conservation targets when it comes to terrestrial land-based conservation and inland waters.

This is the kind of thing that leads to tangible action. When we see that we have work to do, we know we have to do more to achieve those targets. This leads to decisions like, in budget 2018, seeing the largest single investment in nature and conservation with $1.35 billion set aside.

If we are able to track our progress and work towards measurable outcomes, we can shift policy midway to ensure that we are moving towards a more sustainable world.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in this chamber to participate in the debate on Bill C-57, a bill dealing with sustainable development and the government's environmental policy.

This chamber will soon close and we will proceed to having debates for perhaps a decade or even more in another place. Therefore, I am conscious of the fact that this may be one of the last speeches I have an opportunity to give inside this chamber. I mention that because I think it is important to reflect on sustainability at a broader, deeper level than simply one issue, one particular file.

What sustainability is all about is this Burkean idea that the goods of not only our planet but also our civilization, our society and our country are not things that we just think of as existing in a moment of time purely for our own use. In other words, our relationship to our society regarding the environment ought not to be like that of pillagers who come to get what they can because they are here for a good time, not a long time.

No, sustainability asks us to think of the goods of civilization, of society, as something that we received from our ancestors and in a sense are borrowing from future generations. Therefore, we have to proceed with deference to the experience of those who have gone before us and with respect for those who come after us to seek to preserve the goods of the environment, of civilization, of society, of our institutions. We do that, and this is the conservatism in conserve, with a certain caution that recognizes the fragility of our environment and our institutions. We cannot presume that we can radically change the institutional, societal and environmental reality that we are in, that we can radically change it without perhaps considering the possibility of the consequences that might not immediately come to mind.

What is funny is I was thinking about this speech today and remembering the first time I ever visited a legislature. It was the Alberta provincial legislature. I went in as a young student and was listening at the time to I think it was a Liberal member of the Alberta legislature giving a speech on sustainable development. I thought it was one of the most boring speeches I had ever heard. I hope nobody has that feeling listening to what I have to say. It was not the topic. I am sure it was just maybe some aspect of my own experience in that moment. However, since then, I have come to realize really the importance of the concept of sustainability and what it means for all of us as we seek to preserve the goods of society for the future.

We could talk about a wide range of different policy areas with respect to what the government is doing and observe, I think, a real lack of attenuation to the principle of sustainability. One could identify a number of different policy areas where it is not thinking about the future, about preserving the goods of society, the benefits that were received from the previous government. No, it is thinking only about today. It is thinking about how to get that good headline, how to try and demonstrate something in the moment, but it is not thinking about the long-term impacts.

The most obvious way in which we see this worked out is the government's fiscal approach, its spending. Every time a government makes a spending commitment in the context of a big deficit, it knows, or ought to know, that is not sustainable spending, because it cannot run deficits every year forever. At some point the government comes up against a situation where the interest is so high, the debt is so high, that the government is losing out on investments that it could have been making and cuts become necessary. Deficit spending renders subsequent cutbacks totally inevitable. In other words, it is not sustainable to pursue a fiscal policy, an economic policy, or I would argue an environmental policy that is along the lines of what the government has done.

Therefore, when we talk about sustainable development, I think the first step is to delve into the substance of the principle of sustainability and what that means regarding our long-term planning. When we debate bills in this House where government policies are considered, we should always ask if it is a sustainable approach. That does not just mean in an environmental sense, although it includes in an environmental sense. Are the commitments that are being made commitments that we can sustain?

I was reading about the concept of sustainability. One interesting observation in one of the articles I read was that when a judge makes a decision in court in response to an objection and says “sustained”, it means effectively that the past, the history, the traditions are being sustained in the context of the decision that has been made.

There are so many derivatives of this word when we talk about sustainability that tap into this concept of understanding that we have a past and we have a future. We do not just have a present. This is the sensibility that should in a particular way inform the environmental evaluations and decisions governments make. Governments should think about the environment in a way that recognizes that we have a past and we have a future.

All the decisions we make in totality, and in this context the decisions we make about the environment, should have regard for the kind of life, the quality of life, the quality of existence on this planet and the quality of existence that will exist in our own immediate surroundings. This is particularly important to me when I think about my own kids and the life they will have growing up, but I think it is something that resonates with all members, whether or not they have children of their own.

That is why it was important for us, as a previous Conservative government, to put a strong emphasis on effective environmental action, action that reflected an understanding of this principle of sustainability. The idea of being a Conservative includes the idea of conserving. That is our Burkean philosophical heritage. We seek to preserve the goods of the past and protect them for the good of future generations. That is why we had an effective policy of engagement with the environment.

Despite the failures of the Liberal government, despite the ways, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions targets, they have continued policies in some cases and proposed other failing policies in other cases, the government has it dead wrong when it comes to how it characterizes the approach we took when it came to sustainable development.

Let me just emphasize, in that context, that when it comes specifically to the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, in the 10 years of previous governments, including the previous Liberal government, which signed on to the Kyoto protocol, greenhouse gas emissions in Canada went up. Under the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper, we brought in binding sector-by-sector regulatory targets that were intensity based. These are often badly mischaracterized by my friends across the way.

I remember the last time I spoke about the environment my friend from Spadina—Fort York said that these were just suggestions to industry, that these were just requests for it to reduce emissions. Let us be clear. They were not. The regulations that were put in place under the previous government were effective, intensity-based, binding regulations in critical sectors that had a tangible impact.

We saw through that period a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and that is a fact that is, unlike other facts related to this issue, a fact that is not disputed by my colleagues across the way. It is very clear that under the previous government, there was a total reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Surely that has some relationship to the policies pursued by the government. On the other hand, the party opposite really wants to explain away the achievements of our previous government with respect to concrete reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

What are the explanations the Liberals will come up with? Typically, they will use two different explanations. First they will say that emissions only went down because of the global recession. They will also say that emissions only went down because of things that happened at the provincial level. What do we make of those two arguments the party opposite uses to explain away the accomplishments of the previous government with respect to environmental sustainability in the area of greenhouse gas emissions?

In terms of the global financial crisis, it is worth observing, parenthetically, that this is the only case in which the Liberals will acknowledge the existence of the global financial crisis. When they are talking about the economic record of the previous government, how we managed Canada's economy through a time of significant global financial challenge, the Liberals will say that all the economic challenges Canada faced in those years were somehow the result of actions of the previous government, which everyone knows is not true. Everyone knows that the challenges Canada's economy faced during that period were the result of very obvious, very well-known global economic trends that had an impact here in Canada. Because of steps the government took, Canada was relatively less affected by those events. Nonetheless, Canada was affected, and there was a response in terms of a fiscal stimulus that was appropriate in the context of those times.

It was the Liberals in opposition who were actually saying we should spend more. They were constantly calling for bigger deficits and for more spending, not for the prudent, measured and sustainable approach we took in that case. Our approach in responding to the global financial crisis was sustainable in the fiscal sense that we recognized that it was necessary to run deficits but that it was also necessary to return to balanced budgets as quickly as possible. We positioned ourselves in advance by paying off substantial amounts of debt in the years leading up to that global financial crisis. Often the figures we hear from the current government with respect to the total amount of debt during that period are significantly off the mark.

In any event, when it comes to the Liberals' discussion of how we responded to economic challenges, they will completely ignore the global financial crisis, but then when they talk about the real achievements the previous government realized with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, the Liberals will say that actually, there was a global financial crisis, so they are going to use that to explain why greenhouse gas emissions went down under the previous government. The Liberals have a hard time explaining, in light of that contention, how it is that Canada was relatively less affected by the global financial crisis as a result of prudent policies pursued here in Canada yet was reducing global greenhouse gas emissions at a time when greenhouse gas emissions globally were going up. Canada's greenhouse gas emissions went down under Stephen Harper, while they went up in the rest of the world during that period, yet we were less affected by the global financial crisis.

It is hard for the Liberals to explain. If they are suggesting that the impact in terms of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was simply a response to the global financial crisis, they have a hard time explaining how Canada achieved more on the environmental side yet was less affected by the economic challenges experienced globally. The Liberals' counter-argument, their effort to strip from recognition the reality of the achievements that were made, fails in particular with respect to this argument.

The second argument the Liberals make in their attempt to detract from the real achievements under the previous government in terms of environmental sustainability is that it was only from action at the provincial level. If we look at some of the policies the Liberals trumpet, they talk about the alleged virtues of the Kathleen Wynne Liberal government in Ontario.

Ontarians were not in favour of the policies of that previous provincial government. Ontarians should be aware of how many senior advisers and senior people in general involved in those policies are now involved in advising the Prime Minister. Continually we see Liberal MPs praising the record with respect to environmental policy from the Kathleen Wynne Liberal government. I do not think that was an admirable record when it comes to issues of sustainability. It was clearly a disaster when it comes to fiscal sustainability, but also there were big problems when it comes to environmental sustainability, and Ontarians had their say about that. The Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne came back into the legislature provincially with a grand total of seven seats, which suggests that maybe Liberal MPs should be careful praising its environmental record.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to continue with this important discussion of policies around environmental sustainability. My colleagues in the other parties are saying it is their pleasure. I hope so, because there may be things that they do not hear in the talking points that are sent from the PMO about the accomplishments of the previous government in respect of the environment. It is an opportunity for them to take these things on board and benefit from them as they consider the policies that they are going to pursue. It is a good time for them to consider the contradictions in their discussion of pipelines as it relates to the issue of sustainability.

What did the Liberals do when it came to pipelines? One of their first acts, and their first act with respect to pipelines, was to shut down the northern gateway pipeline project. This is a project that had been approved under the previous government. It would have allowed energy from my province, from very near my riding, to get to the port of Kitimat in northern B.C., access a deep-water port there, and give Canada access to international markets.

This is so important as countries in Asia and other parts of the world think about how to increase their energy security. It is a Canadian economic question, a sustainability question, and it is also a geostrategic question. There are countries in East Asia, for example, Japan, that import most of their energy resources. They get them from the Middle East and they have to travel through the South China Sea.

The opportunities for energy security, for Japan and other countries in East Asia, to benefit from Canadian energy exports are significant. The opportunities for us economically, and the opportunities for them in terms of economic benefit as well as security of that supply are very significant.

The northern gateway project would have allowed us to have access to international markets. For these pipeline projects, from initial filing to being built, we are talking about a time period of three years. Had the Liberal government actually listened to Albertans, listened to Canadians when it came to the benefit of the northern gateway project, we might already be up and running. We might not have to have these challenges that Alberta faces, in terms of the big gap that exists between the oil price in the global market and the price that we are achieving here in North America.

The government has this talking point that is worth responding to in this context, where it will say that most of Canada's oil was being sold to the United States when the previous government took power, and when it left power, most of the oil was still being sold to the United States. The Liberals conveniently forget that the critical steps to reduce our dependency on the United States were in place and that the Liberal government cut those critical steps out at the knees. That was maybe an unhelpful mixing of metaphors, the steps were cut out at the knees.

In any event, the Liberal government cut off that progress that was being made that would have brought us to a point today where we would not have to be dealing with this massive spread in price that is killing jobs in Alberta. The decision to kill the northern gateway pipeline was a policy choice of the Liberal government that weakened our sustainability on so many fronts, and it was one that it must be accountable for.

To add insult to injury, the Liberals decided to pass Bill C-48 which formalized in law a tanker traffic exclusion zone that prohibits the export of our energy resources from anywhere in that zone on the Pacific coast between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the Alaskan border. There are tankers in that area as a result of activity coming off Alaska, but from the Liberal government's perspective, we cannot have it; the Canadians are benefiting from that economic activity, so we have to shut off even the possibility of a future project by bringing in Bill C-48.

Again, the government cannot deny that these were policy choices. It was not good enough just to kill the project, it had to add on another bill designed to make sure no new project could be put forward in place of the northern gateway project. That was the Liberals' intended direct action in the case of the northern gateway pipeline.

What did the government do with the energy east pipeline? In geostrategic terms, this is an idea we should view favourably, to create pipeline linkages to a greater extent between western and eastern Canada to reduce the need for foreign oil to be imported. I would ask environmental activists who are against the construction of pipelines what they are doing about the terrible record of countries like Saudi Arabia when it comes to things like human rights. What are they doing to try to allow Canadian sustainable, well-managed energy resources to displace foreign oil?

As we delve deeper into the need for the government to be articulating plans around sustainability, I hope that with the requirements in Bill C-57 for the government to provide information and government departments to be more engaged on sustainability, we think about the contrast between Canadian sustainability practices of our energy sector and what is happening in other countries, as well as the value of the global impact vis-à-vis sustainability associated with displacing the unsustainable and anti-human rights practices we see in some other countries.

Energy east was an economic project. It was about this country prospering. It was also about saying that we can have nation-building infrastructure which allows the country to prosper together and reduce our dependence on actors which do not share our values and interests.

In the 19th century, it was a Conservative prime minister, John A. Macdonald, who had the vision of a railroad that would make our union sustainable, that would unite our country from coast to coast and allow us to do commerce with each other. Today, pipelines are the nation-building infrastructure of our generation. As we think about the legacy of those who came before us who understood the importance of nation-building infrastructure for our political and economic unity and our prosperity, we need to consider whether or not we are up for the challenge. Can we do the same kinds of things they did? Do we have the vision and the willingness to make nation-building infrastructure happen?

In particular, I know many members of the government caucus elected from the Maritimes are hearing from voters in their ridings about the benefits of nation-building infrastructure that connects western Canada with eastern Canada. Even though the government clearly has an anti-development, anti-pipeline agenda, that is why the government did not want to do as directly with an east-west pipeline what it did with the northern gateway pipeline. Therefore, the government simply piled on conditions in a way that made the project harder and harder to sustain from an economic perspective.

See, it was not that the project itself could not have succeeded economically. Rather, it was that the government sought the opportunity to impose new conditions that would make it impossible to proceed. One can never know with certainty the intentions of the government in this respect, but sometimes past statements are revealing enough.

A tweet I referred to before, which was put out by the Minister of Democratic Institutions before she was elected, talked about land-locking the tar sands. This is obviously deeply offensive language to many Albertans and many across the country. When we see government policy with respect to different pipeline projects that has as its effect the land-locking of our energy resources, the significant expansion of the spread between the world price and the local price and economic devastation for our province being the results of government policy, it is worth comparing that to past statements of a cabinet minister who said that this was something she thought was desirable.

There is an agenda among some to squeeze the Alberta economy and the energy sector in a way that forces a significant reduction in investments in our energy sector and that accepts the job losses. We in the opposition stand against that. We will stand up for our energy sector, which benefits not just one region of the country but benefits the whole country.

The government directly killed the northern gateway pipeline project and it added Bill C-48, to add insult to injury. The Liberals found a way of indirectly killing the northern gateway project, and now they have been pushing forward Bill C-69. Bill C-69 quite clearly is the “no new pipelines” bill. The Liberals are trying to establish the conditions which will make it impossible for us to build the nation-building infrastructure of the 21st century. They have an anti-development agenda which is out of step with the vision of our founders and is out of step with the vision that Canadians want, which is a country that can benefit from commerce done together, where people in eastern Canada can buy energy resources coming from western Canada and they can benefit from the value-added opportunities that are associated with that. In Bill C-69, we see specific policies that will make it harder for Canada to make pipelines. It will make it virtually impossible to see pipelines go forward in the future. That is the record with respect to the pipelines.

I have to add a few comments on the Trans Mountain project. As part of the Liberals' discussion on sustainability, they thought they would try this bait and switch strategy because they know Canadians want to see development of pipelines. On the one hand, the Liberals are killing many projects, but on the other hand, without doing anything to establish conditions for the success of the Trans Mountain pipeline, they decided to buy it. They pretended that buying the existing pipeline would somehow increase its chances of success.

Whether the federal government or the private sector is the owner of the project does not change the fundamental issues, which are the government's refusal to assert federal jurisdiction, the lack of a plan to get it built and the failure of the government to appeal a court decision. There would have been nothing wrong with appealing a court decision that blocked construction from beginning on this project, yet we see, despite spending $4.5 billion of taxpayer money and despite sending money to an oil company that will now use that money to invest in energy infrastructure outside of Canada, the Liberals still have absolutely no plan. They refuse to appeal a court decision with respect to this decision and they are piling on policies that make it difficult for this to happen in the future.

There is this deeply dishonest set of policies, in the sense that the Liberals are selling a particular policy approach as achieving a result that they do not want to achieve and that they are in fact choosing not to do the things that would much more obviously and directly help us move toward the goal.

When it comes to the government's anti-pipeline agenda, I want to read a few different quotations that underline the problems with Bill C-69, the government's “no more pipelines” bill.

Let us start with someone who is known to many members of Parliament, Martha Hall Findlay, president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation. My notes say she is a former Liberal, but she may well still be a Liberal. She was a Liberal leadership contestant twice. What she had to say about Bill C-69 was:

If passed in its current, even amended form, it could set Canada back for many years in terms of attracting investment and overall prosperity – at exactly the time when our competitiveness, particularly vis-a-vis our huge neighbour to the south, is in peril.

We might be in a much better position if she had won that leadership race, because I think Martha Hall Findlay hits the point on the head here. Again, she said with regard to Bill C-69 the following:

If passed in its current, even amended form, it could set Canada back for many years in terms of attracting investment and overall prosperity—at exactly the time when our competitiveness, particularly vis-a-vis our huge neighbour to the south, is in peril.

I worry that the policies of the government are actually designed precisely to achieve that objective. They are designed to make our energy sector less competitive overall. Therefore, the government is achieving its objective, but it is an objective it is not willing to acknowledge. Again, the Liberals persist in wanting to speak on both sides of these questions, but we see concretely in their policy agenda, recognized in that quotation by the Liberal leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay, that what they would do through Bill C-69 is to undermine Canada's competitiveness. They have already done many different things that undermine our competitiveness, but this is yet another example of that happening.

I will also read what Gordon Christie, University of British Columbia law professor specializing in indigenous law, said about Bill C-69:

But the courts have said for 15 years that you need to have meaningful dialogue [with first nations and] there is nothing in this legislation that seems to do that.

Moreover, with regard to Canada's activity in the north, the government feels that, somehow, without consultation, it can impose its anti-development agenda on Canadians and in particular on indigenous people there.

I will read what Stephen Buffalo, president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council and a member of the Samson Cree Nation said on Bill C-69:

Indigenous communities are on the verge of a major economic breakthrough, one that finally allows Indigenous people to share in Canada’s economic prosperity...Bill C-69 will stop this progress in its tracks.

That is a powerful quote from an indigenous leader that, while indigenous communities are on the verge of a major economic breakthrough, that would be stopped in its tracks by the no-more-pipelines Bill C-69. That is not a plan that reflects an understanding of sustainability in terms of our national economy. It is not a plan that reflects the need of indigenous communities to be economically sustainable. I think indigenous Canadians want us to support their opportunities for economic development and ensure that they are engaged in the process, as well as ensure that we are working with all communities, including indigenous communities, in respecting environmental stewardship and the importance of environmental sustainability. However, that is not happening under the government. It is persisting with a unilateral and anti-development mentality that holds back our prosperity and that hurts the prosperity of communities all across this country, especially communities in Canada's north that especially benefit from natural resource development.

Mr. Buffalo continued:

Left as it is, Bill C-69 will harm Indigenous economic development, create barriers to decision-making, and make Canada unattractive for resource investment. This legislation must be stopped immediately.

Mr. Buffalo also said:

We find it ironic and upsetting that the prime minister who has repeatedly said that the federal relationship with Indigenous peoples will be the defining characteristic of his government will be the one snatching opportunity and prosperity from our grasp.

He went to call on the government to “pull Bill C-69 from its legislative calendar”.

We see this recognition of the negative impacts associated with Bill C-69 from even the NDP premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley, someone I do not quote often. She said that “Bill C-69 in its current form stands to hurt that competitive position”.

Wow, it must be an election year or maybe there is a sincere conversion going on.

Moreover, the Quebec Mining Association says, “The time limits introduced by the bill will be enough to discourage mining companies and weaken Quebec and Canada in relation to other more attractive jurisdictions.”

We are hearing so much opposition to this bill, not just from energy companies, energy workers and Conservative politicians, but also from Liberals, New Democrats, indigenous leaders and people in every region of this country. The approach in Bill C-69 is not one that recognizes the appropriate balance required for sustainable environmental and economic policy. It is not one that recognizes the benefits that can be achieved by facilitating economic growth in a way that advances our environmental situation as well.

What is the justification for the government's ill-considered environmental policy? It speaks often about the importance of responding to climate change, and I think all of us in the House agree on that. I have spoken today about the real concrete achievements that were advanced under the previous government with respect to environmental change and greenhouse gas emission reductions. When it comes to assessing our sustainability obligations, we need to look at real results and outcomes, not just at the rhetoric.

Part of why the Conservative opposition supported Bill C-57 was that it would provide an opportunity for greater reporting across a greater number of departments and more mechanisms for holding the government accountable for what are demonstrable failures in the area of sustainability. With the kind of reporting mechanism called for in a committee report and that is now moving forward in Bill C-57, people will see more clearly the failures of the Liberal government in achieving our objectives.

When we think about the government's rhetoric around greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability, there is actually a real dissonance between the realities of what it talks about in terms of our international targets and the mechanisms it is putting forward. In that context, I want to make a few comments on the Paris accord.

The Paris Accord establishes a framework that comes out of the Copenhagen, which of course was one that the previous Conservative government was a part of and played a very constructive role in supporting. That process was to recognize the need for all countries to be involved, and the value of having nationally determined targets and clear and transparent reporting around those nationally determined targets. The second section of the Paris Accord speaks specifically of the issue of intended nationally determined targets and creates a mechanism whereby nations would provide reporting internationally on that.

It has been good to have an opportunity to have discussions with constituents on the Paris accord. From time to time, I meet people who are very skeptical about the Paris Accord, but my party recognizes the value of the framework and the differences between the framework we saw in the Paris Accord, for example, and the framework in the Kyoto Accord.

The Kyoto Accord, which was signed by a previous Liberal government that then failed to take any meaningful action toward realizing the goals set under that process, would have involved Canada sending money overseas to buy credits, effectively not reducing our emissions but simply buying credits overseas. That was the policy of the previous Liberal government, which was to do nothing on the environment, but to give money to other countries to buy credits, as if that somehow were a solution.

I do not think that is a sustainable solution by any metric. It is one that is very clearly in the framework of the transparent reporting that is moving forward in Bill C-57. I think that people would be very disappointed about seeing that.

The framework that was put in place was nationally-determined targets, which contrast favourably with what was put in place under the Kyoto protocol. The Copenhagen process, of which the previous government was a part, and the targets we set were targets that involved us taking real action at home, not simply musing about buying credits from other countries overseas.

It is very interesting to see the government come into power, championing the Paris accord, yet going into the Paris accord process with the same kinds of targets that were in place under the previous government. I know it has been criticized in some quarters for that by people who said there was there supposed to be real change. We have seen in so many areas a failure of real change in different ways.

Frankly, when it comes to the environment, it would have been better if we had seen more learning from the constructive action and experience of the previous government. So much was achieved at that time in the way of real, meaningful progress when it came to the issue of sustainability. I have read off some of those accomplishments.

I wanted to jump back for a moment to my discussion of Bill C-69. I want to read a letter that was sent to senators dealing with Bill C-69. In particular, it comes from those supporting the Eagle Spirit energy corridor. This is a proposal that would help to strengthen our indigenous communities economically, create linkages that would benefit them in energy development and export, and provide economic benefits in terms of energy across the whole country.

This is a letter that was signed by Helen Johnson, chair, ESE Chief's Council; Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom, Woodland Cree First Nation; and Chief Gary Alexcee, co-chair of the Chief's Council of B.C. They write the following:

“Dear Senators, we represent the 35 indigenous communities supporting the Eagle Spirit energy corridor from Fort McMurray, Alberta to Grassy Point on British Columbia's north coast. We have been working on this nation-building multi-pipeline project for the past six years and it is vital to the health of our communities and the future of our collective development. In this time, we have created the greenest project on the planet and developed a new model for indigenous engagement, real ownership and oversight that will lead to self-reliance and prosperity.”

“We are acutely aware that the Senate is currently debating Bill C-69, legislation that will change resource and other major project review in Canada. The objectives of this bill are vital to our communities and we believe the country as a whole. We trust that it should create a project review process involving substantial engagement with indigenous peoples and one in which all Canadians can have confidence.”

“While the bill includes many elements that are constructive, including early planning and engagement and a shift to broader impact benefit analysis, we have some serious concerns. In its current form, Bill C-69 has fundamental problems that increase the complexity and uncertainty of the project review and environmental assessment review process and must be addressed before it can be adopted.”

“Our chiefs have emphasized that the environment is at the top of their list of concerns and we have developed an energy corridor that will be the greenest on the planet and will set a precedent for all nations on how to engage with the impacted indigenous population. We do, however, have to holistically balance environmental concerns against other priorities such as building a strong local economy.”

I will pause to re-read that, because I think it is critical, and it is great wisdom coming from our indigenous leaders:

“We do, however, have to holistically balance environmental concerns against other priorities, such as building a strong local economy. There are simply no other opportunities than natural resource development in the remote locations where our communities are located, where 90% unemployment rates are common.

“ For some, the economic opportunities from oil and gas projects have allowed investment in local priorities and the future. It is critical that we develop our own resource revenues rather than continue in debt slavery to the federal government. The best social program is the jobs and business opportunities that come from our own efforts. If reconciliation and UNDRIP mean anything, it should be that indigenous communities have the ability to help themselves rather than continuing the past colonial litany of failed government-led initiatives.

“We agree that the current project review system should require strong engagement with indigenous communities affected by the project as well as responsible and timely development of natural resources. It should avoid litigation of projects in the courts. Investor confidence needs to be restored, and a clear and predictable process has to be set out for indigenous and proponents to follow.

“We are particularly concerned that Bill C-69 allows any stakeholder, indigenous or non-indigenous, to have equal standing in the review process. It is an absurd situation that the only people who have fought long and hard for constitutionally protected rights would have no stronger role in the process than a special interest group that is in no way directly affected by the project. This is a serious and fundamental flaw in Bill C-69 that could undermine the rights of all indigenous people in Canada, and it needs to be addressed.

“We are particularly concerned about the interference in our traditional territories of environmental NGOs financed by American foundations seeking to dictate development and government policy and law in ways that limit our ability to help our own people. What interests could such eco-colonialists have when parachuting in from big cities? They have no experience with our culture, people, history or knowledge of our traditional land. Input from such elitists in this process, who are secure in their economic futures and intent on making parks in our backyard, is not welcome while our people suffer the worst social and economic conditions in the country.

“We have been stewards of our traditional territories from time immemorial, and we believe that such parties should have absolutely no say in projects on our traditional territories.

“At the recent meeting of all communities of the chiefs council we unanimously voted in favour of the attached resolution to take whatever legal and political action is necessary to enforce our rights in relation to Bill C-69. In this spirit, we urge you to protect our rights and support badly required amendments to Bill C-69.”

I want to read as well the resolution signed by many indigenous leaders. It reflects unanimous support of the chiefs council that was referenced:

“Therefore, be it resolved that we oppose an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, legally and politically, as it will have an enormous and devastating impact on the ability of first nations to cultivate or develop economic development opportunities in their traditional territory, since it is being imposed without any consultation whatsoever and against the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the purported reconciliation agenda of the federal government.

“Furthermore, we agree that we will collectively file a civil writ seeking to quash an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendment to other acts, should it become law.”

These are powerful words from indigenous leaders in Canada. This is the first time I have heard the word eco-colonialists.

That is an interesting term to use. These indigenous leaders speak about people who do not have the same history or connection to their land and who enjoy much greater prosperity than indigenous people in these cases might, yet they are coming in and claiming to speak on behalf of indigenous people while taking action that really has the effect of limiting their opportunity to pursue development.

They are thinking about sustainability. I talked at the beginning about what the principle of sustainability means. Sustainability is the idea that we receive the goods of society, of the Earth, from previous generations. We hold them in trust for the benefit of future generations. This idea is particularly well understood by our indigenous leaders. They have the longest history, by far, in this country. Their understanding of their history, of the need to proceed in this fashion, is particularly acute and is referenced in this case.

They are speaking in this letter very much about the importance of preserving our environment but also about striking a balance that builds opportunity for indigenous people, opportunity economically that would allow them to enjoy a similar standard of living as those who live in other parts of this country. It is rooted in an understanding of equity. That is what they are speaking about in this letter.

For once, the government should actually listen to what they are saying and pursue a change in course that supports the development of pipelines that are good for the environment. It should take steps that are actually going to move us forward, economically and environmentally. That means building pipelines, having a strong sustainability framework and having meaningful consultation when proceeding with a project but also when trying to kill a project. That is what we are talking about when we talk about the principle of sustainability.

At this point in my remarks, I want to dig a little deeper into the philosophy behind the principle of sustainability. When we talk about sustainability, it should not just be with reference to environmental issues. We can think across the board about our economic policies and our social policies. Are the decisions we are making decisions we could sustain and continue in future generations? Are they decisions that could only be operationalized in the short term, or are they things we could maintain in the long term?

When we look across the board at the government, the clearest example of its lack of sensitivity to the importance of sustainability is its approach to fiscal policy. This has implications for our environmental stability as well, because if we do not have a sustainable fiscal or economic policy, then cuts will have to be made, especially in critical areas, at times when we may not want those cuts.

That is why Conservative governments have pursued a responsible middle course. My friend from Spadina—Fort York thinks this is a reference to Tony Blair, but it is actually a reference to Aristotle, who said that virtue is the mean between extremes. We have pursued a middle course between the extreme of needing to make dramatic cuts when there is a fiscal situation that forces it on us, such as the situation of the previous Liberal government in the 1990s, and avoiding the other extreme of spending out of control and having no conception of the fact that what goes up must come down.

The history of Liberal governments we have seen in this country is a succession of extremes. We have the case with the government, and with the previous Trudeau government, of dramatic out-of-control deficit spending, unprecedented in peacetime in Canada. We had a reality in 1990 when, eventually, the Liberals' out-of-control spending caught up with them. Fortunately, we had opposition parties, as well, that were calling for some measure of restraint. Really, at the time, their way of responding was to make cuts in transfers to the provinces, which passed on the application of that to other levels of government.

Compare that with the approach of the previous Conservative government, which brought us back to balanced budgets, while continually increasing the level of transfers to the provinces.

My friend from Spadina—Fort York is shaking his head, but he needs to review the reality, because transfers were significantly increased to the provinces in every successive year of the previous government, and they were cut by the Liberals in 1990. I look forward to his intervention.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
See context


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Maybe, rather than heckling, he could use his time to pursue the reading list that I have recommended to him on a number of occasions.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reference in this context an article about Edmund Burke and the environment, an article that I think is an interesting reflection on the relationship between Burkean principles and sustainability. Edmund Burke is seen as a foremost thinker within the conservative tradition. Edmund Burke articulates this idea of sustainability that we should not be seeking radical revolutions that ignore the wisdom of the past but seeking progress in an incremental and positive way. I think the relationship between Burkean conservatism and environmentalism, properly understood, is quite clear. It is that just as we seek to preserve the goods of civilization, we seek to preserve the goods of the environment.

My favourite thinkers in Canadian and English conservatism are Edmund Burke and Thomas More. It is interesting to think about these two thinkers, generally presented as conservatives, in relation to each other. Thomas More wrote a book called Utopia. His reflections on political philosophy are presented in this book, where he imagined a place far away. He wrote as if it existed. However, “utopia” in Latin means “no place”, so it is very clearly a kind of playful use of words to imply that utopia, indeed, does not exist. Thomas More's utopia is actually a place where sustainability is highly prized and much attention is paid to the need to preserve the environment and to have a sustainable society.

What is interesting about More is that he imagined, in a fictionalized sort of way, a far-away place with a totally different structure of society compared with the society in which he lived. In fact, in his own political career, he did not, in some critical areas, pursue policies at home that he described as being pursued in utopias. Therefore, people wonder if Thomas More's utopia is playful fun or a description of policies he would like to have seen pursued if he could have advocated them, but he felt that he could not given the constraints and the politics of the society he lived in. I think Thomas More's utopia is really neither of these things. Rather, he is more inviting us to expand the scope of political possibilities by imagining a different kind of society, and not thinking that we could get there or even would want to get there right away, but rather realizing that other things are possible.

It is interesting to reflect on the English Conservative Canada and the way in which Burke and More both exist as part of it. I think both of these things are part of how we should think about sustainability. We should think about sustainability in this Burkean way of trying to preserve our heritage, our history, and pass it on in complete and, ideally, better form to the next generation. At the same time as we think about those kind of measured incremental improvements we can make to the sustainability of our environment, we should also pause to imagine completely different kinds of societies and the possibility of things working in a very different way. However, we are not capricious enough to think that we can get there overnight by flipping a switch without unintended consequences, because we are societies with histories, with existing economies, with existing cultures, and in the process of imagining that possible future, we need to recognize at the same time the need to move in an incremental way that bears the wisdom of our history.

Doing those things together is what Conservatives have sought to do. It reflects the best insights of the opportunities we have when it comes to sustainability.

I found a brief column called “Edmund Burke's Earth Day Speech”, written by someone named Byron Kenner, who writes: “How environmentalists became Burkians and Burkians became environmentalists”. He says:

Here’s my favorite quote from Edmund Burke’s Earth Day speech, “Never, no, never did Nature say one thing and Wisdom another.” Isn’t that terrific? And so apt for the occasion! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

What’s that you say? Edmund Burke didn’t make an Earth Day speech! He couldn’t have! Earth Day was in 1970, almost 200 years after Burke died. That’s true, of course, but, nevertheless, there he was--big as life--seated next to me on the speakers’ platform. Funny, but what struck me as strange was Burke’s speaking at all. Why was Edmund Burke--of all people--addressing an Earth Day rally? Talk about a fish out of water!

Edmund Burke is regarded as the founder of modern conservatism, and Earth Day 1970 was a high-water mark of the then prevalent left-wing counter culture.

More strangeness was to follow. When Burke began speaking, I--along with the huge crowd listening--was soon mesmerized by his magnificent eloquence. Speaking of nature’s bounty, Burke urged Americans “not to commit waste on the inheritance...hazarding to leave to those who come after them, a ruin instead of a habitation.”

As he went on, I realized Burke was describing a coherent, overall approach to environmental protection, one that was simple, powerful, and persuasive.

This is Burkian environmentalism. Here is what it boiled down to:

It’s highly imprudent, Burke warned, for humans to radically intervene in the functioning of natural systems whose boundless complexity and infinite interdependence exceed our understanding. Such interventions are especially unwise and dangerous when these systems--such as climate--underpin our very existence. Plaintively, Burke asked what in past human experience suggests that such large-scale meddling is harmless? On the contrary, it’s prudent to assume that great risks are involved.

(In his remarks, Burke acclaimed prudence as “the chief among virtues.” So I wanted to be absolutely sure of the word’s exact meaning. I checked the dictionary: prudence is the exercise of careful good judgment based on actual past experience and the application of such judgment to show care for the future.)

I think the application of the virtue of prudence to our environmental decision-making is critical and often absent from the calculation of the government. Prudence is the virtue that invites us to see the practical world the way it really is, to learn from our experience and to be measured and wise in our response to it. Unfortunately, when it comes to the environment, we often see that the government is not prudent. Instead, we see the pursuit of contradictory policies in the name of sustainability, policies that do not actually move us toward sustainable objectives. There are policies designed to look like a statement is being made, but not actually make anything resembling substantive progress.

Our reflection on this particular tradition in the words of Burke and the principles around prudence could well inform the actions of the government.

The article continues:

When it comes to politics and government, Burke argued that prudence--simple, ordinary prudence--in itself provides a sound base for public policy on the environment. And because this is self-evidently true, environmental activists can stand and fight on this base with strength and confidence.

The second point about Burkian environmentalism that is made in the article is the desirability of organic change:

Burke made clear that his call for prudence is not a call to halt progress. He believes that change is desirable, necessary, and in any case nature compels it. “We must all obey the great law of change,” he declared. “It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation.”

This is perhaps a challenge to some of the caricaturist versions of Burke that are presented by his critics. Some people suggest he was against any kind of change, but that is not the case. He speaks of change as a law of nature and the value of organic change as a way to ensure we sustain our civilization, we sustain our ability, but also recognize the change should happen in a way that is organic. The challenge he said is how to best manage change.

Continuing the article, it states:

Burke believes the answer to this challenge may be found in the functioning of natural systems. Change must be sought organically. Organic change occurs on a small scale, incrementally, from the bottom up. It evolves without being forced or contrived.

Organic change should characterize environmental politics too. Burke said change in nature was “a condition of unchangeable constancy, (that) moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete.”

This is some beautiful language coming from Edmund Burke, making a connection between the sustainability of the environment and then the policies we pursue to make the environment sustainable, making that connection also to the kinds of policies we pursue in other areas, to the way we treat our institutions, that we recognize the need for our institutions to be sustainable to preserve what is good about them and where we make changes, to do them in a way that is organic.

This is a point I do not think is well understood by the government. Although it may talk the talk of sustainability, I think it misunderstands its richer application, at least in the way I do, following what is being said by Burke.

The government talks about making immediate and radical changes on which often it cannot deliver. It made promises, for instance, to dramatically change the electoral system and it failed to deliver on that promise. The context of the consultations that happened through the discussion was that people made the point that there were benefits of our existing system that needed to be preserved. Therefore, when we talk about possible changes to the way our democratic institutions work, we have to make changes in a way that is sustainable, not just in the sense that we allow those institutions to continue to exist, but that we sustain the benefits, the wisdom and the effectiveness of those previous institutions.

This is the essence of Burkean philosophy applied to politics. However, it draws an important connection between what we observe in the natural world, change, yes, but the preservation of that change in an organic context and how we ought to think about our institutions. They are not the sorts of things we should cut down and redesign on a whim.

I think about our own parliamentary institutions, how they have evolved organically and how we continue to look for opportunities to change and improve them, how we discuss ways possibly that we can strengthen our institutions, but at the same time do so in ways that reflect observed problems and a desire to preserve the wisdom of the past. That is what we should be doing when we have discussions about ways to preserve the sustainability of strengthening our institutions.

Bill C-57 invites us to use the tools of sustainability more, to include in our reporting and accountability to the government a greater emphasis on sustainability. The government probably thinks about that language of sustainability primarily in the economic context. However, I hope this will engender a deeper appreciation of the value of sensitivity, of how all policy-making, the way we act in the context of our institutions, the way we preserve social institutions and the way we interact with community groups about our fiscal and economic policy. Are we doing things in ways that preserve the sustainability of those institutions?

I wonder if, in the context of goals being set on sustainability, as mandated by Bill C-57, we will see a greater use of that tool in the reports they give. I hope we will see that, because certainly, that is something that is worthwhile and quite important.

I am going to continue now to read from this article about Edmund Burke's approach to environmentalism. The article states:

In this connection, Burke heaped praise on the thousands of new small green businesses and entrepreneurial endeavours now flourishing throughout the country. These businesses are not only transforming the economy, he said, they are also forming a vibrant and vocal political constituency. (Hearing this, I thought—wow!—a constituency like this is exactly what Burkean environmentalism needs if its promise is to be realized.)

We hear him speak about the issue of, in Burke's time, small green businesses, entrepreneurial endeavours coming from within civil society that were responding in a concrete way to the environmental challenges that were faced. Those, he understood, were the benefits associated with that policy.

Opposition Motion — United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous PeoplesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 4th, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
See context


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague brought forward Bill C-262, which was passed by the majority in this place. My colleague's bill would now require that the government reflect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in all federal government legislation. I would welcome my colleague's comments on this.

On two occasions, I have brought forward amendments for the government to include in new legislation coming forward, including Bill C-57, which would amend the Sustainable Development Act; and Bill C-69, which would transform our entire major project review process. The Liberal government turned down more than a dozen proposals to include the UNDRIP in that legislation. I wonder if the member could also speak to this.

The government seems to want to give the illusion that it supports all the TRC calls to action. It is giving the illusion that it now supports the UNDRIP, but in its actions, it does not seem to be delivering on that promise, also as pointed out recently by the Auditor General of Canada.