Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting debate in that there are rare occasions when I agree with the government. There are elements of Bill C-57 I am in agreement with, but I am going to talk about some concerns about the ideological creep of the Liberal Party into the legislation of Canada. By “ideological creep”, I do not refer to any hon. members. I refer to a creeping barrage of ideology that is actually not rooted in science. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is seemingly unaware of global concerns with respect to some of the things being put in legislation.
Why I agree with elements of Bill C-57 is that they are rooted in the work of the last Conservative government. In 2008, as my colleague from Perth—Wellington mentioned, the Conservative government passed it. There was a lot of good work done by John Baird at that time, and it has been continued. That is the basis of the Federal Sustainable Development Act. It is based on the sustainable development goals the United Nations started with the Rio declaration, right through to the UN agenda 2030. We certainly see a benefit to many social and economic considerations going into the sustainable development goals of a country.
When looking at an environmental plan, considering economic aspects of that plan, the impact on communities, and social development is prudent as one is planning. There are many departments within the federal government planning to meet the sustainable development goals articulated by the UN, and they are coming up with plans to do that.
I would note that the government has appointed a commissioner, who I wish well in her role, Ms. Julie Gelfand. We all wish her well in terms of working with federal government departments, particularly the Department of National Defence, which has large tracts of green space and lands in Canada, to make sure that we minimize the impact on the environment, make our operations sustainable, and operate with the future in mind of handing over the country we inherited to our children. There is a lot of agreement on that, and I will agree with those goals in this legislation.
I have three areas of concern I am going to keep my remarks to, because I do not like spending too much time on agreement with Liberals in this place. My friends will start questioning my loyalty.
The first area is the typical Liberal approach. There has been concern expressed by my colleague, the member for Abbotsford, and others that it seems the minister is going to continue to expand the paid advisory councils the government will rely upon. We know, going back to the days explored by Justice Gomery, that when there are gatherings of advisers, on a range of issues, being paid and being dependent on contracts and the goodwill of the government, it actually breeds a lack of accountability. We have already seen that, with the Prime Minister being the first sitting prime minister in Canada to have been found to have violated ethics legislation that governs this case. The finance minister has two pending investigations.
We do not think there should be that approach, with these friends of the Liberals being paid advisers. That should be arm's length, and we should rely upon Ms. Gelfand and her department to provide that advice. We have exceptional civil servants, so I do not like the approach we see the Liberals resorting to too often.
I commented that there are elements I said I agree with in Bill C-57. They are certainly rooted in the work done by the Conservative government, such as instilling the polluters pay principle and a number of tangible things that will have benefits. They will show that everyone in our country, including corporations, will need to be good and responsible stewards, and those principles enshrine that.
However, there has been a lot of window dressing from the government when it comes to the environment. We almost groan when we hear the minister say that the environment and the economy go together. It has just become rote language. However, I want to show how it is now also window dressing.
The minister herself said, in debate on Bill C-57, that the bill “would shift focus in the Federal Sustainable Development Act from planning” to reporting results. If we are looking at reporting results when it comes to our environmental goals and sustainable development, what were the comments of Julie Gelfand in her first appearance at committee on Bill C-57, and later, her comments with respect to the government's environmental plan?
If we are trying to say reporting results is what the government wants through this legislation, what did the Commissioner for Sustainable Development report on the government's progress on the environment? Here is her report on results:
We concluded that Environment and Climate Change Canada...measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contained in this plan had yet to be implemented.
She went on to confirm that the government “did not make progress” with respect to any of its greenhouse gas emission targets. This is another case of the Liberals talking a very good game—whether in legislation, whether in debate outside of the chamber—but if we look at results, which is what the minister wants the bill to do for all departments of the federal government, we see they are failing. The commissioner actually reported a failing grade to the government.
If we combine that with the Auditor General's most recent report, which says that under this government there is basically no ability to implement projects, it should concern all Canadians. I know it concerns many of the civil servants who have had trouble getting paid and families having to help out their children, but it is a fundamental thing when the Auditor General in such strong language calls out the Liberals' inability to actually implement projects.
I hope the minister moves beyond the rhetoric of “the environment and the economy go together”, because we want to see results. Rhetoric we get enough of. We want to actually see some tangible results, and if Bill C-57 can do that, I am very happy that it will be part of our sustainable development discussion for the next number of years.
My final concern is the ideological creep that I see with the government, because in a similar fashion to Bill C-55 on the oceans act, this bill also creeps the precautionary principle into federal legislation. The old approach of the Conservative government enshrined the polluter pay model, and it is very obvious what that is: if there is an impact on our environment that is negative and it is clear who the polluter is, the polluter will pay to remediate that impact on our environment. The polluter pay principle is in this legislation, but Liberals are inserting the precautionary principle, and that is troubling because it is pseudoscience. The precautionary principle actually says, “Let us not wait until we have final scientific evidence to make public policy; let us just make it if we feel good.”
I will illustrate this with a quote. I know the front bench of the Liberal Party enjoyed their trip to see President Obama. They were downright giddy. What did Obama's chief scientific adviser say about the precautionary principle? He said that the precautionary principle, for all its rhetorical appeal, is deeply incoherent.
If we are talking about sustainable development and goals, we should be talking about science-based evidence. That was something the Liberals used to say in opposition a lot, but now in several pieces of federal legislation they are enshrining a policy principle that is not rooted in science. It is rooted in rhetorical appeal. It is rooted in feeling good. It is virtue-signalling, something we see every day from the government.
We should see a science-based approach. Whether it comes to sustainable development, our oceans, or marijuana, we should not be legislating and regulating because of an ideological view. While I support the goals of Bill C-57, it is this creeping barrage of Liberal ideology that they are secretly inserting into things. They have a condescension of the left that is troubling to people who have worked in the private sector, people who rely on science and evidence, as I do. Their attitude is that if we do not agree with them, we are somehow un-Canadian, or wrong, or as the Prime Minister says, we are being partisan. Is it partisan to ask for science before making decisions?
I would say in overall support that I am happy that there are elements to work together on, but I would like to alert Canadians to this ideological creep of the Liberal Party, which will set Canada back in the long term.