Mr. Speaker, I thank the Chair for his kind remarks and his friendship over the years, which will continue even after I leave this place.
I would like to express my gratitude to all the parties in the House for their support and cooperation in bringing Bill C-474, the federal sustainable development bill, to this stage and providing very helpful suggestions for its amendment.
I would also like to acknowledge those who have contributed to the drafting and revision of Bill C-474. The bill reflects, to a large degree, the work of the David Suzuki Foundation with input from the Natural Step Canada group. It was developed and amended through extensive consultation with the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
The person who has worked harder on this bill than anyone, who has negotiated with all the parties and legislative council and environmental groups, is one of our own parliamentary interns, Delaney Greig, for whom I predict a great future. She was ably assisted by my legislative assistant, Bo Romaguer.
The original reason I chose to put forward Bill C-474 was a universal dissatisfaction with the existing departmental sustainable development strategies process. The system of departmental reports has received criticism from both Conservative and Liberal ministers of the environment, from former commissioners of the environment and sustainable development and from the green ribbon panel that was established last year to review sustainable development strategies process.
Specifically, there has been broad recognition of the need for greater accountability in the sustainable development strategy process and for a coherent, overarching federal strategy developed at the heart of the government.
These are exactly the changes made under the federal sustainable development bill.
Bill C-474 calls for the development of a federal sustainable development strategy containing goals and targets developed by the Minister of the Environment with cabinet oversight. The federal strategy will be examined by Parliament, an advisory council and the commissioner prior to its coming into force. A progress review will occur every three years through a report to Parliament and a corresponding assessment report from the commissioner. Further, departmental sustainable development strategies will be required to comply with and contribute to the federal strategy and will also be assessed.
Moving through committee, a number of amendments have been made to Bill C-474 to eliminate the need for a royal recommendation, as the Speaker has earlier recognized, and to draw in features that reflect the interests of all the parties represented here today.
As the government was contemplating changes to the sustainable development strategy process, it considered the route laid out in Bill C-474. Bringing together our thinking and theirs, we have amended Bill C-474 to satisfy all four parties. We have all had to put a little water in our wine.
Working on Bill C-474 has been a constructive and collaborative experience. The bill before us in the House today is a tribute to the way in which parties can work together in this place, in committee, in a minority Parliament, where committees are not always so collegial.
In particular, recognition is due to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, who has shown leadership by bringing forward constructive amendments and building support for Bill C-474 among his colleagues, in committee and in the House. I also thank him for his very kind words about my retirement.
I also want to acknowledge the support of the members of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP.
Given the atmosphere of cooperation around our efforts to improve sustainable development planning in the federal government, we look forward to ending debate in the House of Commons on Bill C-474 today. Although this will lack the theatrics of a vote, I have elected to request that the House adopt today Bill C-474 with the required technical amendments that have been moved so that it may progress to the Senate before we adjourn for the summer.
I must express to all members my appreciation for their assistance in enabling this bill to progress to this point and, if it is the will of the chamber, sending it on to the Senate. Bill C-474 will make sustainable development a priority at the heart of Canada's government for our future generations. I am honoured to have been able to shepherd this legislation through the House of Commons as my last act as a member of Parliament.
It is in the spirit of cooperation which has characterized the debate on this bill, and having consulted with the government and opposition parties, I would like to ask for unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, at the end of today's debate on Bill C-474, standing in my name on the Order Paper, all report stage motions be deemed adopted; the Bill be deemed concurred in at report stage with further amendments; and be deemed read a third time and passed.