Evidence of meeting #82 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was strategy.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Stephen Lucas  Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment
Paula Brand  Director General, Sustainability Directorate, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Fast, we've been very open and transparent with respect to carbon pricing.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

You have this information—

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

As we've discussed in the past, there are facts and figures that are out there on the Internet, which we have posted on the website for you to go and review. This is a conversation we've been having for several months, and it has been an open and transparent discussion, and it will continue to be so—

November 2nd, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

You have not released the full report; you know that. It was heavily redacted, and NRCan has said that they're not going to release their report. It is important for Canadians that they understand what it means for the average Canadian family when the government implements a carbon tax policy—

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

We are out of time, and we are trying to focus on the FSDA.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

This was—

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You're talking about how we're going to be able to do accountability on these things, so I understand where the question was coming from. But, anyway, we're out of time on that one. We're going to move over to Mr. Gerretsen.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Can you speak to what you see as the benefits of having each individual department create its own strategy? I know you've already talked briefly about it.

10:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Stephen Lucas

I'll take that at a high level, and then perhaps turn to Paula.

I think it goes to the questions that have been posed with regard to accountability and specificity, with transparency as a key mechanism to enhance it. The higher level purpose and principles in the act are made manifest in terms of action through the overarching three-year strategy. But critically important are the actions that individual departments and agencies will take—now expanding to 90—to be able to implement those on a rolling three-year cycle, and to be accountable, ultimately, to Parliament for those actions. Certainly, with the additional accountability mechanism, which we think is quite powerful, of reporting year after year on that...and on specific performance measures that they will bring to bear across....

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

When the departments are responsible for creating their own strategies, would they be in consultation with you as to how to do that? Do they reach out to you and ask whether you can advise them in this area or that area?

10:35 a.m.

A voice

That's a good question.

10:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Stephen Lucas

Indeed, Madam Chair, it goes to the question raised by Madam Duncan. The act does provide for the establishment of an office. It specifies not an individual but an office. We do play that role in helping support—

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

That will be within the department.

10:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Stephen Lucas

—the development of those strategies, indicators, and measures across government.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

There's been some discussion about whether or not being within the department is the best place for this to happen; maybe it should be within the purview of the PCO, or the PMO, or somewhere else. I'm curious. Notwithstanding the fact that I'm asking you to comment on the capabilities of your own department, would you not agree that within the department whose responsibility primarily relates to environmental sustainability as a premier objective, that you would be more suited to help develop those strategies with the individual departments than perhaps with a different organization or department that is more holistic? You specialize in this, do you not?

10:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Stephen Lucas

Indeed, and I think that is why it has been established in the department. Indeed, the decision to sustain the machinery of government within the act is due to that expertise in sustainable development and certainly in environment and climate change, as we coordinate and support other departmental efforts, for example, on clean growth and climate change, biodiversity, and these other areas of importance.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

When it comes to the accountability, I know that Ms. Brand—and Mr. Lucas, for that matter—touched on the accountability and the reports being tabled in Parliament and on Parliament and this committee specifically having the opportunities to challenge it. Can you talk to us about the difference between what currently exists and what is being proposed in the legislation?

10:35 a.m.

Director General, Sustainability Directorate, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Paula Brand

As I mentioned, currently under the act, departments are required to make their plans. That's it.

What we're proposing is that departments, one year after making their plan, will in fact report on their plan. They'll report on their plan to Parliament, and that report, as I mentioned, will be referred directly to this committee. That creates a chain that did not exist.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

They make the plan; they report on the plan. If they can't deliver on what they came up with, would you not say that they will be held relatively accountable for that? It's not as though the plan is imposed on them by the PCO or the PMO or somebody else; they make the plan themselves; then they are the ones who report back on it and hence need to be accountable for it.

Would you not say that it puts them in an awkward position if they can't deliver on their plan?

10:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Stephen Lucas

Well, it puts them in a position of being accountable for what they've committed to. I think that's the point of that regular reporting, of the review by the committee, and ultimately of the authority of Parliament to approve plans and vote the resources to implement them—and of the reviews provided for by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

We have 40 seconds for the Liberal side.

Go ahead.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you, Madam Chair.

When we did the study for the FSDS, we heard testimony about the need to establish an advocate for Canada's future generations. Environment and Climate Change Canada has said that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development already considers the needs of future generations. We also heard that the government would consider strengthening the commissioner's mandate to better reflect some of our recommendations, but we're not seeing that in Bill C-57.

I'm wondering whether you've heard some of that discussion or whether it's covered by something else.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

I think it's covered in the sense that sustainable development by its very nature is about future generations, so it's very much reflected in the purpose of the act itself. It is also reflected in the fact that the commissioner herself has a mandate that includes consideration of future generations. That's the position that has been taken in Bill C-57.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Mr. Zimmer, we have just time for your questions.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

This is a question for Mr. Wilkinson, again with reference to the minister's speech and the bill itself and with sustainability as the topic. I want to quote the Northwest Territories premier, from a statement he made yesterday, and I want to add a little bit more into the record. The premier said:

For too long now policies have been imposed on us from Ottawa and southern Canada that, despite good intentions sometimes, and ignorance other times, are threatening our economic potential and the decades long work that we as a government have taken on Indigenous reconciliation. Whether it be ill conceived ways of funding social programs, or new and perplexing restrictions on our economic development, our spirit and energy are being sapped.

He goes on:

New funding approaches that distinguish between peoples may help to improve outcomes on reserve in southern Canada, but could divide Northern communities.... Restrictions imposed on our vital energy and resource sector—40 percent of our economy and source of middle class jobs and incomes for many of our people—are driving companies away, and with that go the jobs that sustain healthy families and community life. Staying in or trying to join the middle class will become a distant dream for many.

We've heard the minister talk about sustainability. We've heard a lot of talk—there is always a lot of talk in Ottawa—but policies such as the ones you're proposing are affecting real people's lives in these northern communities. They affect northern indigenous communities in my part of the province in northern British Columbia, and really across the north—any rural part of Canada.

Please explain how this is sustainable.