An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act

Sponsor

Status

Report stage (House), as of Dec. 13, 2017

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Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

Oct. 19, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 13th, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in relation to Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

I would also like to wish you, Mr. Speaker, my fellow colleagues, and all my constituents back home a very merry Christmas and all the very best in 2018.

December 7th, 2017 / 10:45 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Chair, I'm sure committee members recall that I mentioned earlier the motion that every committee passed with identical wording that says I have an opportunity—which isn't really an opportunity; it's the coercion that makes me show up at clause-by-clause instead of having rights. But for the motion you passed, I could be moving these motions at report stage, which is why I had to run out of the room to get to Bill C-57, where I'm also going through a clause-by-clause.

I don't know if my amendment was defeated. I ran back before finding out, but I at least was able to present on Bill C-57. So I apologize for being out of breath and late for PV-2, which is now the third one I've been able to present, for which I thank you.

I've heard the discussion, so I guess we're well into discussing this. There already are provisions, of course, that the minister may prohibit any activity that is not part of a class of activities set out in the permitted areas of activities. My amendment attempts to create greater precision. There are things the minister may choose to prohibit pursuing these regulations, and may prohibit, and then the items are listed (a) through (f): hydrocarbon and mineral exploration; renewable energy infrastructure; marine finfish aquaculture; bottom trawling fishing gear; the passage of Canadian and foreign ships—and I gather you were just discussing that—disposal of or causing to be permitted the disposal of a substance.

These recommendations come from a lot of the testimony that you heard before this committee. We know that polling by the World Wildlife Fund says that 80% of Canadians believe that marine protected areas should not allow oil and gas activity; 87% believe marine protected areas should not allow bottom trawling. We did see quite a public outcry when right after the announcement of the proposed Laurentian Channel MPA, there was what many Canadians regarded as incompatible news that oil and gas activities were still permitted.

This is not a mandatory responsibility of the minister. Again, I want to stress that to make regulations to prohibit these kinds of activities, and I would imagine, of course, with regard to the question for which no one here has an answer about how this would affect rights of innocent passage, the minister would be mindful of all such concerns on a case-by-case basis and would not put forward a regulation that was not enforceable within Canada.

I'm quite confident that this is within all four corners of Canadian law, and again, I'd urge you to consider it as one that meets a lot of public concern, even though it's merely an option for a minister and it's purely discretionary.

December 7th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Fortunately, they're in the same building. On this amendment that I propose, I really think this committee has done terrific work. I go back to the committee's report on federal sustainability for future generations and note that in the committee's report, there was a recommendation that performance-based contracts should meet standards.

To clarify, I'll quote the committee report, which said that in respect of all targets for which a department or agency is responsible, revising the provision to ensure performance-based contracts meet sustainable development goals is “an effective means of holding people to account for meeting targets”.

The Green Party amendment PV-1 proposes to insert after what we now have on page 7 of Bill C-57, at proposed section 12.3:

“12.4 Performance-based contracts with the Government of Canada shall include provisions for meeting all of the targets referred to in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and the Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies.”

The committee has already studied this and determined that it makes sense. I hope to have support for this amendment to strengthen Bill C-57 by giving performance-based contracts with the Government of Canada the mandate to meet targets.

Thank you.

December 7th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Chair, I'm here because of the motion passed by this committee. Just so you have an insight into how onerous and manipulative and unacceptable it is that every single committee passed identical motions that only give me opportunity at clause-by-clause study deny me the opportunities I would otherwise have at report stage, I am simultaneously in clause-by-clause study for Bill C-57 and down the hall at Bill C-55 on the Oceans Act, so I may not be able to stay longer than just to present my amendments.

I know you all passed that motion a long time ago, but it does have an impact, and I'm sorry I can only run in and run out again, because these bills are being studied at the same time.

December 7th, 2017 / 10 a.m.
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Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I want to note that section 12 of the current act, which refers to performance-based contracts, does not pertain to performance agreements of senior officials but to procurement. As a result, it duplicates the existing Treasury Board and Public Services and Procurement Canada's policies, and Bill C-57 proposes to delete it for this reason. It's because it's referring strictly to procurement. It's not referring to anything above and beyond that.

Our revision, replacing “environment” with “sustainable development”, makes it more consistent with the revised purpose.

December 7th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.
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Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Quite simply, this is about aligning the commissioner's role with the requirement in Bill C-57 that each target be measurable and that there be a time frame. It was made clear to us yesterday that the commissioner already has the intention of being able to review principles, but we wanted to make it abundantly clear that what was required was a demonstration of a measurable target and a time frame.

This allows us.... I'll reference the later motion, the NDP's fifth amendment. It stays squarely within the frame of the audit function, which is to have measurable targets, to be able to report on those, and to have a time frame which can be reported upon, but in engaging in a sort of future-oriented, policy-oriented analysis. It brings the commissioner further outside that audit sphere. My thinking is that it is squarely within the commissioner's function to be looking at time-bound and measurable measures.

December 7th, 2017 / 9:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you, Madam Chair.

On this side, we don't support the amendment. Bill C-57 gives a clear mandate for the advisory committee. This would add cost. Also, as Ms. Brand said, within the act itself there's already fairly wide consultation that we're not amending.

December 7th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Okay, Paula, please come on up.

Thank you, Paula. I appreciate that. I know you're all settled back there nicely, but it's better to have you here, I think.

I'd like to introduce the legislative clerk, Olivier Champagne. He was here before, but he went away because we weren't ready to do it. He's here today to guide us through the process. There is a script prepared.

If you remember last time we did clause-by-clause consideration, we had an issue. We decided we wanted to do something, but we'd already gone past the point and we couldn't get back to it, so let's make sure that we to go carefully through this so we don't have any “oops” and we can't get back, because I think we need unanimous consent to do that, and that's always a bit of a challenge.

For that reason, I'm not going to rush it. I'm going to go carefully through it. We have quite a few clauses and some of them are embedded or supersede another clause, and there are amendments to things that have been brought by others.

Pursuant to the order of reference on Thursday, October 19, the committee now resumes the consideration of Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

In summary of the bill,

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

That was the purpose of our previous report.

We'll get started. Does everybody have their copies open and everything ready? Okay.

We're going to start with clause 1.

The definitions precautionary principle and target in section 2 of the Federal Sustainable Development Act are repealed.

Shall clause 1 carry?

I just want to make sure everybody is ready.

December 5th, 2017 / 9:50 a.m.
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Nick Xenos Executive Director, Centre for Greening Government, Treasury Board Secretariat

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm pleased to have this opportunity to talk about the work that the Treasury Board Secretariat centre for greening government is undertaking to meet the commitment under the federal sustainable development strategy to realize a low-carbon government.

As you know, Bill C-57 would formally recognize the leadership role of the Treasury Board Secretariat in greening government operations.

It is important to note that the centre for greening government will complement the leadership role that Environment and Climate Change Canada plays on sustainable development writ large for the Government of Canada.

Specifically, the centre will provide guidance and coordination to departments on the low-carbon government commitment under the FSDS.

The proposed amendments to the Federal Sustainable Development Act would increase the number of organizations that report on the strategy and, therefore, on the low-carbon government commitment of the FSDS. This is consistent with the Centre for Greening Government expanding the inventory it maintains of federal greenhouse gas emissions to cover more departments and organizations.

Reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions has been a priority for the Government of Canada. Canada committed to reducing its national emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by the year 2030.

In the 2016-19 FSDS, the Government of Canada committed to leading by example by making its own operations low carbon. The federal government set a target to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030.

Under the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, the government also committed to using 100% clean electricity by 2025.

The Centre for Greening Government was established within the Treasury Board Secretariat in the fall of 2016 to meet these low-carbon government commitments.

The centre has a mandate to track and report on federal emissions, to coordinate the government's overall efforts to green its operations, and to drive results to meet the government's greening objectives.

Earlier this year, we organized two round tables to explore two important topics. The first one was with federal employees on greening government operations to help mobilize employees. The second brought together our partners in business and academia to learn from their experiences in greening procurement and adopting clean technologies.

In July, the centre posted a dataset on the greening government section of Canada.ca showing that the government's GHG emissions were reduced by 19% in 2014-15 from 2005-06 levels. The inventory is made public through the government's open data portal, giving Canadians single-window access to tracking information on the government's emissions.

We are working to further expand this inventory to achieve a more complete picture of federal greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, to gain a better understanding of resources of emissions and identify areas of opportunity to take action. The centre is tabulating emissions reductions from the last two years and will report them as soon as they are available.

Going forward, we will update the emissions annually, and the data will include more departments and agencies, as well as an expanded scope of activities.

Drawing on the expertise of expert departments such as the National Research Council, Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Natural Resources Canada, the centre is providing guidance to departments on greening real property, fleet, and procurement. Departments are making progress in advancing energy efficiency and low-carbon projects. The largest federal emitter, for example, the Department of National Defence, published its energy and environment strategy and is purchasing renewable energy in Alberta. It's hiring energy managers for its major bases, purchasing energy performance contracts, and greening its administrative fleet.

The second-largest emitter, Public Services and Procurement Canada, is updating the heating and cooling plants that serve the Parliamentary Precinct and other federal buildings, working to make its office space and leases low-carbon and piloting a zero-carbon retrofit in one building.

By collaborating with the private sector and other stakeholders, the government will implement programs aimed at greening its operations and adopting green technologies, and it will mobilize federal employees to find new ways to reduce our environmental footprint.

Looking ahead, we'll continue reviewing the government's policies to strengthen greening and achieve its low-carbon goals.

The centre looks forward to continuing to work with government departments and agencies to do this.

Thank you for the opportunity to describe the work of the centre for greening government at the Treasury Board Secretariat and how that contributes to the government's efforts to achieve sustainable development.

I welcome your views, comments and questions.

December 5th, 2017 / 8:55 a.m.
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Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

You don't comment in any manner in relation to the principles that underpin the bill. There have been recommendations made by this committee, and then subsequently, the government has adopted some of the principles that were suggested. I wonder if you have any comments in relation to the legal principles that underpin this statute and Bill C-57 amendments.

December 5th, 2017 / 8:55 a.m.
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Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

To our commissioner and team, I very much appreciate your willingness to come at short notice and to give us your assessment of Bill C-57.

My first question goes to the issue of resources. You state that with 70 more entities to audit, you will require new resources. Can you elaborate a bit further on what would be necessary for your office?

December 5th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Julie Gelfand Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Okay.

Madam Chair, it is a pleasure for us to be here today to share our views on the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

As you indicated, I am joined by senior colleagues from the Office of the Auditor General, Andrew Hayes, James McKenzie and Andrew Ferguson. Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Ferguson worked for a very long time with the previous version of the Federal Sustainable Development Act. They are experts in this matter.

As Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, I feel a special responsibility to support your review of Bill C-57. My remarks are informed by our office's 20 years of audit work on the federal sustainable development strategies and will cover the following issues: expanding the focus of the act to include the social and economic aspects of sustainable development; the proposed new principles; and reporting on sustainable development progress and improving accountability.

I was pleased to see that the purpose of the proposed new act is to provide for a federal sustainable development strategy that makes decision-making related to sustainable development more transparent and subject to accountability.

I understand from the proposed section 3 in Bill C-57 and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada's comments before this committee that the federal sustainable development strategy required under the act must respect and support Canada's international commitments. These include the United Nations agenda 2030 and the sustainable development goals, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Paris convention, as examples.

Although some of the amendments to the act appear to embrace the three aspects of sustainable development, I am concerned about the limited scope of proposed section 10.1, which is focused solely on environmental impacts.

In addition, it is my view that the implementation of the Federal Sustainable Development Act will require a whole-of-government approach. In this regard, strong governance is crucial.

I would recommend that the committee consider whether an amendment can be made to proposed section 10.1 to authorize the Treasury Board and potentially the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada to establish policies and directives relating to the sustainable development impact of government operations and to report on sustainable development progress.

I am pleased to see that the new bill introduces several principles that must be considered when the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and departmental sustainable development strategies are prepared. My office will use these principles when we audit the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and the 90 departmental sustainable development strategies.

That said, we anticipate that we may have difficulty assessing whether the principles have been put into practice, because several are open to interpretation.

In accordance with the principles that are set out in the amendments to subsection 5a), the committee may wish to consider the merits of entrenching the cabinet directive on strategic environmental assessment in the Federal Sustainable Development Act. This could be a tool to support the consideration of economic, social, and environmental impacts of all decisions.

Our office supports the amendments which will require more than 90 departments and agencies to prepare, implement, and report each year on their sustainable development strategies. I see this as a positive step towards the integration of sustainable development considerations across government.

I plan to assess the departmental sustainable development strategies against the FSDS, the principles as outlined in proposed section 5, as well as the international commitments as outlined in proposed section 3, the purpose, of the new bill. I will be looking to see how departmental sustainable development strategies support Canada's international commitments, in particular, the United Nations agenda 2030 and the sustainable development goals. I expect that most departments will need to go beyond greening of government operations. I will be looking to see how departments assess their policies and programs to achieve these international commitments and how they apply the principles to all of their activities.

With these amendments, I will continue to fulfill my statutory role with respect to monitoring sustainable development strategies. That said, I would have nearly 70 more entities to audit. The committee should be aware that this change will have significant resource implications for the office.

As a result of the increase in the number of entities that will be preparing progress reports, I highly recommend that reporting on departmental sustainable development strategies be standardized across government. By standardized, I mean that the results for all departments and agencies should be presented at the same time each year and in a common format, so that Canadians can understand the results that have been achieved and so that my office can provide a meaningful assessment of those results for parliamentarians.

As auditors, we support the idea of strengthening accountability for results. One way to achieve this would be for the act to specifically require deputy heads or ministers to acknowledge their accountability by signing off on the completeness and accuracy of their progress report on their sustainable development activities, much as you would see in financial statements.

You could also strengthen accountability, which was discussed at length during the committee's previous study of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, by incorporating accountability for sustainable development results in the performance agreements of deputy heads.

Madam Chair, I commend the committee for its work and hope that my suggestions will be helpful to you.

This concludes my opening remarks. We would be happy to answer the committee's questions.

December 5th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair (Mrs. Deborah Schulte (King—Vaughan, Lib.)) Liberal Deb Schulte

Welcome.

We are back to FSDA. Pursuant to the order of reference of Thursday, October 19, the committee resumes consideration of Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

We have in front of us some guests from the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

We have Julie Gelfand, commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. Welcome back.

We also have Andrew Ferguson, principal; Andrew Hayes, principal; and James McKenzie, principal.

We will open the floor to you. You know the drill: when you have a minute left, I'll hold up the yellow card; when I hold up the red card, I don't mean for you to just stop, but to wrap up.

November 28th, 2017 / 10 a.m.
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Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

I have a question about timing for our submissions for clause-by-clause around Bill C-57.

November 28th, 2017 / 9:55 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Seeing no further comments, we'll vote on the motion.

(Motion agreed to)

Thank you. We are done.

I want to thank everybody. Bill C-323 has been interesting, and I'm glad the report is speaking to a lot of the things we want to see move forward. I am very hopeful that we're going to see some progress on this file because it's very important to all of us.

Before we let everybody go, we have a couple of things to settle. The next meeting was to be on Bill C-57. Linda has asked us not to do it on Thursday, so we're going to do the press release and we'll have a discussion about what that's going to look like based on what has happened today. That will be first thing on Thursday.

I want to bring to your attention that we had two amendments to management plans tabled by Minister McKenna. If we want to discuss them, we can. I did ask Mr. Fast. He said that's not necessary. You can let me know if you are interested in talking about those at committee. We can. They're tabled and we have the option to discuss them if we want. It's up to you guys. You can let me know.

On Thursday I think it would be really helpful if we had some discussion on our trip to the GLOBE summit and make sure we have figured out how we're going to move forward on that initiative.

Then on Tuesday, we will start our clause-by-clause work on Bill C-57.