Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to address my hon. colleagues here in the House today. I would like to speak about the principles of sustainable development and Bill C-57 and how those will help advance the government's commitment to a clean environment and a strong economy.
Let me start with a bit of history. In 1993, the General Assembly of the United Nations established the World Commission on Environment and Development, which was chaired by then Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. In 1987, the commission published Our Common Future, known as the Brundtland report. The report put sustainable development on the global agenda. It also coined and defined its meaning, as follows:
Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
That is often referred to as the standard definition of “sustainable development”, and indeed, that is how sustainable development is defined in our current Federal Sustainable Development Act.
The Brundtland report paved the way for an unprecedented 1992 United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro, better known as the Earth Summit. I want to make a special point of noting that it was the late Maurice Strong, a distinguished Canadian, who led the organization of that event.
The Earth Summit brought together more countries and heads of state than any previous event. It established enduring and lasting mechanisms for international co-operation, following through on Gro Harlem Brundtland's vision of a sustainable future.
Among these important agreements were the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and the development of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Canada was there. We supported the 1992 Rio declaration, and we have championed sustainable development since that time.
In 1995, following Rio, Canada became one of the first countries in the world to create a commissioner for sustainable development. Since 1997, government departments have been required to produce sustainable development strategies, in compliance with the 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act.
In 2008, under the leadership of the Hon. John Godfrey, his private member's bill, Bill C-474, passed and became law as the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The act provides a legal framework for developing and implementing a federal sustainable development strategy every three years. It also requires 26 departments and agencies to prepare their own sustainable development strategies that comply with and contribute to the federal strategy.
Let us move forward to 2015, which was a watershed year for sustainable development globally. In September, Canada was among 193 countries to adopt the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The 2030 agenda set out a global framework of action for people, the planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership, with the ultimate goal of eradicating poverty and ensuring that no one is left behind. The 17 sustainable development goals and their 169 associated targets built on the previous millennium development goals. They were universally applicable and fully integrated social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Just a few months later, in December of 2015, Canada was among the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which adopted the historic Paris agreement.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act is part of a legacy that began with the Brundtland report and the Earth Summit and that is still relevant today as we advance the government's commitment to a clean environment and a strong economy. It provides the framework to develop and implement the federal sustainable development strategy, a guide to the Government of Canada's environmental sustainability priorities.
The most recent strategy for the period from 2016 to 2019 was tabled in the House on October 6, 2016. It sets out 13 long-term aspirational goals. In response to a recommendation of the standing committee, the strategy's goals are Canada's reflection of the United Nations' sustainable development goals, with a focus on the environmental dimensions.
We are continuing to move forward to improve what we are already doing. Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act, seeks to strengthen our commitment to sustainable development, further building on the Brundtland Report and Rio as well as on the 2030 agenda for sustainable development goals and the Paris agreement.
As in the past, principles have been the foundation of all our sustainable development commitments, and today I would like to take a few minutes to tell my colleagues about the principles we are proposing in Bill C-57, principles our government believes will strengthen the Federal Sustainable Development Act. I also want to acknowledge the important work of our colleagues on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, who, in their June 2016 report on the Federal Sustainable Development Act, highlighted the importance of modernizing our sustainable development principles.
Bill C-57 proposes to include the principles of intergenerational equity, polluter pays, internalization of costs, openness and transparency, involving indigenous people, collaboration, and results and delivery.
The principle of intergenerational equity is the essence of sustainable development. It is the recognition that the decisions we make are not just about today and about us but about the future and those who will be here after us.
The principles of polluter pays and the internalization of costs reflect our understanding that we need to move beyond conventional ways of thinking. To be sustainable, economic growth must take into account the damages imposed on the environment. Polluter pays means that those who generate pollution must bear the cost. Internalization of costs means that goods and services should reflect all costs they generate for society, from their design to consumption to final disposal.
The principles of openness and transparency are intertwined with the purpose of the Federal Sustainable Development Act to make decision-making related to sustainable development more transparent and subject to accountability to Parliament.
From the very first day we took office, our government has been committed to a renewed relationship with indigenous people based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. We are working to correct the injustices that have persisted and have contributed to an unacceptable socio-economic gap. That is why we are involving indigenous people. We want to underscore that this commitment is supported by important provisions in the proposed act to increase the number of indigenous representatives on the Sustainable Development Advisory Council to better reflect the breadth of indigenous groups represented and the challenges they face here in Canada.
The principle of collaboration emphasizes the role parties must play to achieve sustainable development. We need to work together.
Last, the principle of results and delivery is about making sure that we get there. We need to ensure that we have the right objectives and strategies to meet all the goals, but we also need good indicators to measure progress and make sure that we report on the progress in a way people can understand and be proud of.
The principles set out in Bill C-57 reaffirm that we are up to the challenge before us. We are ready to seize the opportunities before us and to be bold. Sustainable development means growing a diversified, low-carbon economy while reducing emissions and generating good-quality jobs for Canadians.