Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to stand in the House on behalf of the constituents of the great riding of Kenora. I am also pleased to participate in the debate on Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament).
To echo what we have already heard, this government is pleased to have senators review both the draft and final versions of the federal sustainable development strategy. We are very happy for their participation in this process as well as all of the other reports required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act.
As my colleagues previously mentioned, this bill comes in response to an oversight in the original Federal Sustainable Development Act, which, as we have heard, failed to properly include the whole Parliament in its processes.
As the House is aware, similar provisions in the Auditor General Act require the tabling of sustainable development strategies and reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development before the House of Commons. When that language was borrowed for amendments to the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the tabling of reports in the Senate was unfortunately lost.
This government believes strongly in accountability. Improving Senate involvement in the Federal Sustainable Development Act and Auditor General Act would offer a further improvement, a concept that we fully endorse.
The government has no issue with the tabling of the reports required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act or the Auditor General Act before the Senate and is pleased to support this bill. That said, let me take a moment to briefly and importantly address what lies at the very core of the actual Federal Sustainable Development Act, and that is sustainable development itself.
Sustainable development is necessary to Canada's economic stability. We see that in the great Kenora riding with the importance of infrastructure projects that help our mills and our residential, commercial and industrial development not just serve its community for its utility and convenience, but also continue to be more environmentally friendly.
This is also to the financial well-being of our country, because economic decisions can carry with them economic ramifications. Development must be undertaken in such a way that does not unduly deplete Canada's rich and diverse natural capital. This approach to sustainable development calls on citizens, industry and governments to participate equally in activities that achieve results without jeopardizing the future of our resources.
In that respect it has been a guiding principle of this government to work in partnership with all parties to ensure our resources are exploited and developed in a manner that harms neither the economy nor the environment. We heard the parliamentary secretary speak of that balance that any government is trying to achieve in this regard. I am pleased to say that this government has repeated that refrain long and large.
Our collaboration with our partners in the United States on clean energy dialogue, for example, has been as much about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the shared environmental fabric of our two nations on this great continent as they have been about protecting the shared economic footing that allows both Canada and the United States to thrive and prosper.
Our strong and comprehensive approach to ensuring our water resources are used wisely has as much to do with ecological gains as it does with economic growth.
Our measures to clean the air Canadians breathe were created with good health in mind, good personal health, good environmental health, good community health, but also good economic health. All of those are factoring heavily in the design of our regulations, for example, the regulations for tailpipe emissions that we introduced just last April.
I mentioned, quite purposely, the three elements, greenhouse gas emissions, water and clean air. More than any others, these three represent the most recent indicators of good environmental sustainability. As members are no doubt aware, our health, well-being and economic security are highly dependent on the quality of the environment.
Reports of smog alerts, blue-green algae growth in our lakes or shrinking ice caps in our north bring attention to changing conditions in the environment. Issues like asthma, cardiovascular disease and water-borne illnesses underline linkages between the environment and human health. Environmental changes such as low water levels, pest infestations and intense storms also have economic impacts on such sectors as agriculture, forestry, tourism and fisheries.
My point here is that there is an interconnectedness between our abilities to be environmentally sustainable and to experience sustainable economic development in general. The two are not mutually exclusive. As far as developing land, cities, businesses and communities go, our government subscribes to the very definition of sustainable development, namely that we will meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.
This definition, to which our government has adhered since being elected into office nearly four years ago, recognizes that social, economic and environmental issues are interconnected and that decisions that will ultimately be judged as being successful are the ones that incorporate each of these aspects over the long term for our future generations.
The fact is that sustainability can be used as a means to enhance the health and well-being of Canadians, as a mechanism for preservation of Canada's natural environment, and as a tool to advance Canada's long-term economic competitiveness, be that on a continental or a global plane.
Given the importance of good, smart, sustainable development to our environmental, economic and even personal health, it goes without saying that this government will continue to do what it can to improve sustainable development in Canada.
This includes continuing to work with all of our partners. I think of the opportunity that we have in northwestern Ontario at this very moment to share in resource management and to learn from sound environmental principles from our first nations communities. We have benefited greatly from understanding traditional practices with respect to care of the land, its lakes, its trees, our forests and other important resources.
As well, we need to continue to work closely and consultatively with industry, our communities, citizens, and other levels of government, including the Senate, for the betterment of Canada's economic and environmental landscapes.
The government is pleased to have senators review both the draft and final versions of the federal sustainable development strategy, as well as all other reports required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The bill responds to what is largely the result of an oversight, as I have said, within the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which failed to properly include the whole of Parliament in its processes.
This government believes strongly in accountability. Improving Senate involvement in the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act will offer further improvement.
For the purposes of today's discussion, our commitment to sustainable development also and obviously includes supporting Bill S-216.