Good afternoon, Mr. Chair. Thank you for having us.
Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to be here to share some of our preliminary views on the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. I am joined by senior colleagues from the office, Andrew Ferguson, Bruce Sloan, Richard Arseneault and Jim McKenzie.
I received the draft strategy from Minister Prentice on March 16. Under the Federal Sustainable Development Act, I am required to review a draft of the strategy and provide comments to the minister as to whether the targets and implementation strategies contained in the draft strategy can be assessed.
We have 120 days to meet that requirement. As you can appreciate, we have only recently begun our review. We are also striving to send our analysis in less than 120 days. For your information, I will provide my comments to the Minister of the Environment and copy this committee.
Since we are still reviewing the draft, I am not yet able to provide you with our final observations. However, I thought it might be helpful to share with you some contextual remarks and issues that we will be considering as we carry out our review and that we believe need to be addressed by a federal government strategy in order to make progress.
First, given the reach and influence of the federal government, a federal strategy has significant potential to promote more sustainable development across Canada and is therefore an important government initiative. It is also an inherently difficult one. However, it has been 15 years since the federal government formally committed to the concept of sustainable development and created the requirements for sustainable development strategies.
Since 1997, departments have been producing sustainable development strategies, and my office has examined and reported to Parliament on them annually, noting serious shortcomings both in the individual departmental strategies and, more generally, in the government's overall approach.
In our 2007 report, we concluded that the process was not working. We recommended that the government review its overall approach and establish a set of federal goals for sustainable development including specific performance expectations, indicators and targets to serve as objectively verifiable benchmarks against which progress can be measured.
So today, in its federal sustainable development strategy for Canada, the government has set out a single set of federal government goals, targets, and implementation strategies. This development is a welcome one. We are hopeful that the shortcomings we identified with past strategies will have been addressed.
During our review we will look at the government's targets and implementation strategies to determine whether they are specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound, such that progress can be objectively assessed. Given the 120-day period available for this period, it will not be possible for us to determine fully whether the government has put in place the necessary management systems to actually be able to assess and report on the implementation of its consultation paper.
Nevertheless we will examine the government's draft strategy in the context of the legal obligations set out in the act. For example, with regard to section 3, which sets out the purpose of the act, we would expect to see an explanation in the strategy of what environmental decision-making entails. We would also expect the strategy to elaborate on how the government intends to make environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable than it is today by setting targets and implementation strategies describing how and when this is to be accomplished.
We will also assess the strategy against guidelines set out by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat for good corporate plans. For example, we will examine whether the strategy includes a description of the main risks and the major assumptions used in preparing the strategy, a description of significant changes to government policies, processes or activities, and whether the human and financial resources necessary to implement the strategy are discussed.
In conclusion, we have now commenced our review of the federal strategy, and we will be pleased to share the results after writing to the minister.
Thank you. We would be happy to answer any questions the committee may have.