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

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

I'm not challenging the chair.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

I think I was fair.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

I made a motion.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You made a motion, and you have every right to do that. We will consider that at the next meeting, and we'll go forward there.

I think I was fair. I gave the time that the member had left.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

You let him ask the question.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Mark, we don't need to debate. We're not debating here.

I want to make sure that everybody around the table knows that I am mindful that we are trying to stay somewhat on the agenda. I'm very flexible. I've been very flexible for two years now and I want to stay that way. I don't want the whole meeting to start to get controversial on both sides. I think the good work that we've been doing here has been helpful because we are dealing respectfully and cordially with each other. Let's not wreck that.

I tried to be reasonable. I think everybody has had their say, including me. Let's get back to the work of the committee today.

I want to welcome Paula Brand to the table and Mr. Wilkinson. Mr. Lucas is still with us.

Thank you.

Do you have a little something you want to tell us before we start questioning?

Go ahead, Mr. Wilkinson.

9:55 a.m.

North Vancouver B.C.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Thank you again for the opportunity to be here today.

This is an opportunity to ask perhaps some more specific and technical questions of officials. Paula is the person responsible for actually doing most of the work, working very actively to pull together both the strategy and the act. Of course, you've been introduced to Mr. Lucas in the past.

One thing came up earlier in the conversation, and I thought it might be useful to have Ms. Brand speak to it for a couple of minutes—the relationship between the SEAs and the federal sustainable development strategy and act—because this is a pretty important point that has been raised. I think it could use a little bit more elaboration, with your....

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Yes. I think that would be very helpful.

Go ahead, Ms. Brand.

November 2nd, 2017 / 9:55 a.m.

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

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Perhaps I'll just point out and describe each of these components, and then draw the linkage between them. We're all aware of the cabinet directive on environmental assessment of plans, policies, and programs, where every minister is responsible for implementing the directive. The department itself plays a particular role in establishing the environmental framework against which departments would assess their priorities.

The targets that appear in the FSDS itself become the objectives against which the Department of Immigration, the Department of Health, and so on will assess their programs, plans, and priorities. Those assessments find their way into documents like memoranda to cabinet and Treasury Board submissions, where those assessments and works are done by individual ministers and submitted through that process. The report—and the commissioner's report that we're often talking about—has chosen to take a handful of departments each cycle and assess where they are in those processes. It's not a comprehensive view of how that cabinet directive is being implemented, but in every cycle there are a few departments that are reviewed by the commissioner of the Auditor General. PCO has a role to play in terms of the oversight it takes when it's reviewing and providing advice on memoranda to cabinet in general, and they have responsibilities related to that. The bottom line is that all departments and all ministries have a responsibility related to strategic environmental assessment.

Departmental sustainable development strategies are a child of the broad federal strategy, in which each of those 26 departments is required to put together a strategy relating how they will contribute to the goals and targets in the strategy. The Minister of the Environment is not responsible for every goal and target in the federal sustainable development strategy; her responsibility is to coordinate the efforts of all 26 departments in elaborating that strategy. Be it Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada, or Health Canada, departments have specific strategies, and their ministers have responsibilities for the specific goals and targets inside those strategies.

Departmental strategies can include a lot of things. They include which goals, targets, and departmental actions departments are going to contribute to. They also include things like performance measurements and performance indicators, which can be used to track whether those targets are being put into place. They include other sustainable development contributions that a department may make outside of the federal sustainable development strategy. Many of you have noted that sustainable development can be considered broader than the goals and targets, and there are some departments that have commitments outside of the federal sustainable development strategy. Their departmental strategy includes those pieces as well, and it includes the public reporting dimensions on strategic environmental assessment.

The connections are in various places, yes, but the individual products and programs have different objectives. The strategic environmental assessment is your front-end decision-making advice to the minister's function. The federal sustainable development strategy and those departmental strategies are the plans, then, that come from those decisions. They include the monitoring means through indicators and performance measures, and then there is the public reporting side of that.

They are linked, yes, but they perform different functions inside of that. When we talk about “doing sustainable development”, it does not always equal “doing your SEAs”. There are a lot of things encompassed inside a departmental strategy that are related to sustainable development.

I thought I would just lay those pieces out for folks to understand where they are and how they fit together.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

I think that's helpful. Thank you.

Mr. Bossio.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you so much for being here and for that description. I guess I'd like to drill down a little more into that, because one of the recommendations we made is around this: how do we establish enforcement and accountability in this whole-of-government approach? The minister referred to the Treasury Board. The new provisions of the Treasury Board may establish policies and directives regarding the environmental impact of the operations of designated entities, and designated entities must take these policies and directives into account when preparing their sustainable development strategies.

We have strategies that are being developed, and then we have performance indicators. How are we holding departments accountable to those measurements and indicators when they're not achieved?

10 a.m.

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

Paula Brand

The notion of the original act is still the basis for many of the pieces you see in the bill, which is transparency. Transparency was a major portion of the first act, and it has been a major portion of our efforts to date.

With respect to accountability and the enforcement types of measures, as was eluded to, we now have managed to embed those throughout the act, starting at the principle level and talking about results, about the accountabilities with respect to targets themselves that must be measurable and time-bound.

Under the old act, departments only had to create a plan. They never had to report against their plan. That provision is new, to require departments to report twice within the three-year cycle on what they've achieved.

As a sustainable development office inside of Environment and Climate Change Canada, we work with Treasury Board Secretariat to provide guidance to departments around what should be in the nature of those plans and those reports so that we have some consistency for you to view them.

Those reports will now be tabled in Parliament. Upon tabling, they will be immediately referred to this committee so you will have access to all that information. That is a major change in the transparency. Those levers along the way afford points in time for review and assessment by you, by the public, by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

All 26 departments released their plans the first week of October; that was our 100% compliance. Yes, everybody did what they currently have to do under the act and released their plans this past October. We're currently looking at all of them and bringing them together in an electronic form which we will release publicly when we have amalgamated them.

In the strategy, there is a commitment to do resilience and adaptation planning. That commitment in departmental plans was noted by many departments. We will amalgamate them so you will now be able to look at individual commitments and see how many departments are doing those things and the program measures they have in place.

All of that, we believe, improves transparency and accountability.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

It's the hope that through far greater levels of transparency to a number of different branches of government via the committee, via parliamentarians, and via the commissioner, that transparency itself will result in a higher degree of accountability and enforcement to fulfill the mandate of achieving the FSDS.

10:05 a.m.

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

Paula Brand

Transparency will play a key role and the specificity of having smarter targets and the tools to do those assessments will ease that transparency.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Bossio, the transparency applies broadly and certainly the committee will play an important role in that. The transparency will apply to ministers who will need to justify to their colleagues and the Governor in Council why they are not able to meet objectives and measurable targets that they've established within their strategy.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

In the past the commissioner has reported on where people are. We saw in a most recent report that five out of 19 departments had achieved their impact analysis. I want to ensure that through these measures we're going to have greater fulfillment of the targets, because as we've seen in the past, that hasn't necessarily happened. They say that they agree with the commissioner and that they'll do better; and then they pooh-pooh us and move on.

Do you feel that these new measures, that level of transparency is going to increase that determination to do better?

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Part of the problem in the past was that it was very difficult to measure whether you were achieving progress or not. There was no measurability in the targets. Absolutely, I think a combination of enhanced measurability with respect to targets and timelines, along with significantly enhanced transparency, will get us where we're all aiming to go.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you.

Go ahead, Mr. Sopuck.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Measurement means indicators. Can one of you list very succinctly the indicators of sustainable development?

10:05 a.m.

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

Paula Brand

I have them. The ones that we propose to measure are in annex 2 of the federal sustainable development strategy. We have a list of them in annex 2. There's a section on performance measures, and there's a table indicating.... I don't have the count right now, but we have listed the ones we're committed to reporting against.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Okay. When I look at the purpose of the bill, I see improving the quality of life. Part of the quality of life of our citizens is the ability to have jobs and incomes. Are economic development and job creation among the indicators of sustainable development measurements of economic growth? Are those some of the indicators?

10:05 a.m.

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

Paula Brand

They are not in this list right now. We have these indicators at the target level. We are undertaking work right now at the goal level of this strategy to assess what kinds of measures we will have in place for that.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Well, again, I find that astonishing. To me that's strictly evasive, so quite obviously the Federal Sustainable Development Act is at odds with the Brundtland Commission's definition of sustainable development, which is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising [the needs of] future generations”. When Brundtland and the World Commission on Environment and Development wrote “Our Common Future”, they were very clear that the concept of sustainable development was a development concept that actually had measurements in it for jobs, income, and people. In this current bill, even though you say something's being worked on in the vague future, in that list you just showed us, there are basically no indicators of economic development and job creation.

Go ahead.

10:10 a.m.

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

Paula Brand

If I could clarify, there are a couple specific ones on the clean tech sector GDP and clean tech jobs.