Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to the government's report stage amendments to Bill C-474, An Act to require the development and implementation of a National Sustainable Development Strategy, the reporting of progress against a standard set of environmental indicators and the appointment of an independent Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development accountable to Parliament, and to adopt specific goals with respect to sustainable development in Canada, and to make consequential amendments to another Act.
This motion is to correct the difference between the English and the French versions in clause 3. The discrepancy is that the English version says that the federal sustainable development strategy will make environmental decision making more transparent and the French version says the purpose of the act will make environmental decision making more transparent. This difference should be corrected and, thus, the amendment.
I would like to also begin by thanking my colleagues who are here today for their hard work in the environment committee stage in amending the bill into workable and effective legislation. I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Don Valley West, who is the sponsoring member of the bill, for his dedication. It has been a pleasure working with him to advance Bill C-474. I would like to take this occasion to wish him well as he will soon embark on a new chapter in his life, a new career. Congratulations to him, through you, Mr. Speaker.
I am pleased that all parties in the House were able to work together to show goodwill and a common commitment to environmental sustainability. Bill C-474 will help to increase transparency and accountability and to improve federal sustainable development planning and reporting.
The bill before us today would enable the government to better articulate its environmental sustainability priorities and to align the work of departments to support them. For the first time since the departmental sustainable development strategies were introduced in 1995, there will be an overarching federal sustainable development strategy to set the direction for the supporting departmental strategies. Federal departments will all be rowing in the same direction, together.
The forthcoming federal strategy will contain federal goals and targets for sustainable development, along with implementation strategies for each department. This approach will ensure government transparency and accountability for progress to advance sustainable development.
Indeed, the development of a federal sustainable development strategy is long overdue. There have been a number of commitments over the years to develop one. The first commitment was at the earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1995. This commitment was reiterated at the 2002 world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg, South Africa. The government is very pleased to meet this international commitment through this legislation and to have been able to work with all the political parties for its development.
The bill would also respond to numerous calls by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to develop a federal strategy. The commissioner has often likened the existing approach to sustainable development planning in Canada to trying to assemble a large jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box. The legislation would finally provide that overarching picture.
In addition to the development and implementation of a federal sustainable development strategy, the bill includes a number of important elements that would serve to advance sustainable development here in Canada. For example, the bill calls for the establishment of a new office within Environment Canada to develop and monitor progress on the federal sustainable development strategy.
The bill would also establish a sustainable development advisory council with a broad membership that would include provincial and territorial, aboriginal and non-government representatives, as well as representatives from business and labour communities.
Bill C-474 outlines an important oversight role for cabinet in the development and implementation of the federal strategy. This again will increase accountability for progress on sustainable development to the highest political levels and will ensure that environment sustainability is kept at the forefront of government decision making.
The bill also outlines an important audit and assessment role for the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development largely through consequential amendments to the Auditor General Act, which outlines more broadly the roles and duties of the commissioner. Through these proposed amendments, the commissioner will be required to review a draft of the federal strategy before it is finalized to ensure that the targets and their implementation strategies will be capable of being assessed. The commissioner will also report on the extent to which departments and agencies have contributed to meeting the targets set out in the federal sustainable development strategy and assess the fairness of the information contained in the progress report to be prepared by Environment Canada. Again, these are important steps toward increasing transparency and accountability to all Canadians.
The bill is in keeping with good pieces of work brought forward by the government, all in an effort to improve environmental protection in Canada. This includes initiatives such as the national vehicle scrappage program, introduced by the environment minister on June 4, and many other initiatives through the government's comprehensive plan to combat climate change and improve air quality through our government's “Turning the Corner” action plan.
The bill represents an important step in Canada toward living up to both domestic and international calls for the development of an overarching sustainable development strategy. The government is pleased to support Bill C-474.
Again, I want to congratulate every member who was part of the environment committee and who worked hard on this bill and, again, the member for Don Valley West.