Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd be curious to have an elaboration from you or from the clerk's table as to why this may be inadmissible, or you rule it as such.
The purpose of creating this committee, when we suggested it back in November, was for this very purpose. This is a bit of a convergence of two interests. This issue of an independent environment commissioner came forward as a result of Madame Gélinas' leaving the office prior to Christmas. In the environment committee, we looked in some detail at whether she needed to be independent.
The place to make that change was unknown to us as committee members. Members of Parliament from all parties have expressed interest in this idea of at least considering it and looking at the implications, because what happened this past year in terms of accountability for this country when it came to the environment was distressing to many of us.
We had a champion for the environment in Madame Gélinas, and then, like that, she was gone and replaced by somebody else of, I'm sure, excellent quality, but someone unknown to us and unknown certainly in the field of the environment.
This opportunity that we created through Bill C-30, and that all the parties agreed to, was the exchange of ideas. This seems like an idea that has merit. I remember when Mr. McGuinty moved this concept at the environment committee; we suggested he bring it here, to this table, where we can effect a bill.
The heart of the work that Madame Gélinas and others before her have done is around the accountability of Canada's actions and decisions when it comes to legislation with the environment. How is it that the Canadian people are able to know that what the government claims is going on has actually happened? We can all fondly remember—at least those of us in opposition at the time—the environment commissioner's reports on the government's actions, because she pointed out things.
Mr. Watson will remember that the previous government's commitment of $5 billion to fight climate change, which Canadians would say is important, had actually resulted in a little over $1 billion being spent. This current government is now making announcements, but in such a heightened political atmosphere, who are we to trust, and how can we trust that the thing will actually happen?
Over the last 14 years, Canadians can be forgiven for being a bit skeptical of government announcements. The Commissioner of the Environment's place was verifiable.
The last think I would like to say is this. Committee members who are also on the environment committee will remember that Ms. Fraser had some reservations about this concept.
We also spoke to other countries that have invoked a very different type of environment commissioner, one who is able to do a bit more of the casting forward as well as the pure, traditional auditing practices. This is a change in audit practice for Canada when it comes to the commissioner's role; it subtly alters what it is she's doing.
I think some in the Auditor General's office have concerns with that, because they are just accustomed to a different system, but when you talk to New Zealand in particular, and some European nations, this is absolutely standard practice, and it has been to great effect for MPs, both those within government and those sitting on opposition benches.
So there's a switch, a positive change. We're glad the Liberal members took up both the NDP suggestion of moving it here to Bill C-30 and the concept of moving good ideas through the Bill C-30 process to improve that accountability loop.
All of these amendments we're seeking to do, I would suggest to all those sitting around the table, aren't worth much if we don't have the confidence that they will actually happen. A big problem with environmental legislation and environmental policy in this country is that the thing just hasn't happened. The promises have been made; laws like CEPA were drafted, but we heard from witness after witness that it's the actual carrying out: it's the will of the civil service, it's the will of the politicians to actually follow through to the letter of the law. That's what's been lacking in Canada, and desperately so. It's not announcements and not grandiose statements about the environment; it's actually doing the thing.
We think this amendment, in this process, could be quite advantageous because it will ensure some accountability, but it will also put the fear into those carrying out the legislation that someone will be looking at the policies and analyzing how they match up to Canada's commitments. No one will craft a policy that the Commissioner of the Environment will walk out three months later and totally debunk. That just wouldn't be intelligent politics.
For those reasons, and as I said at the very beginning, I am curious about the ruling as to why this remains out of order. It's of some curiosity for some other amendments we're moving later on.