Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the debate at second reading of Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act. The government is happy to support the bill, as a contributor to federal transparency and accountability for sustainable development.
The government believes in sustainable development and is of the view that we have to balance environmental progress and economic progress, that our responsibilities for prosperity are balanced, as well as our responsibilities as stewards of the environment.
While we need a certain amount of prosperity to derive environmental progress, we also know that protecting and sustaining our natural environment is central to this prosperity, to our standard of living, and to the health and well-being of all Canadians. That is why we have taken concrete steps to improve sustainability.
We announced this past March legislation to increase the penalties for polluters, and in April, new regulations for tailpipe emissions.
We have been working with our partners, the Obama administration in the United States, on a clean energy dialogue which will enhance collaboration on the development of clean energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to address climate change.
We have introduced grants under the eco-energy retrofit homes program. We have increased them by 25% to help Canadians take more sustainable action in their homes. This program is a chance for Canadians to save money on home renovations that will reduce energy consumption and that will provide for a cleaner environment. It will also cut their energy bills and save them money.
We have put in place a strong comprehensive approach to ensure that our water resources are used wisely, both economically through making investments in regulating and enforcing laws, monitoring, science, cleaning up problem areas, as well as building partnerships to protect our fresh waters.
This government has been clear on its commitment to environmental sustainability through these and other concrete actions. We have also been clear about our commitment to greater accountability in advancing sustainable development. Part of that commitment was evidenced last year when Parliament passed with all-party support the Federal Sustainable Development Act. All parties were able to work together in a show of goodwill and common commitment to environmental sustainability.
The act represents a marked improvement over the previous approach due to sustainable development plans and reporting under the Auditor General Act. That previous process did not make an overarching federal sustainable development strategy. Rather, it only required individual federal departments and agencies to prepare and table individual strategies every three years, in the absence of an overall guidance or set of federal sustainable development goals. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development likened it to trying to assemble a large jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box. With no idea of what that picture was meant to look like, departments and agencies were left floundering.
The new Federal Sustainable Development Act will improve this process by requiring an overarching federal sustainable development strategy, with complementary departmental strategies. These will be updated every three years to reflect sustainability priorities and to reflect progress made through the implementation of the strategies.
The new act also requires oversight at a number of levels, including by the cabinet. It requires the appointment of a multi-stakeholder sustainable development advisory council made up of a broad cross-section of Canadian society. It includes provincial and territorial representatives, business and labour representatives, aboriginal peoples and environmental groups. It requires the establishment of a sustainable development office within Environment Canada to develop and maintain systems and procedures to monitor progress on the implementation of the federal strategy and report this progress to the Minister of the Environment, to Parliament, and to Canadians.
It also requires the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to assess and to report on the government's progress toward its sustainable development target and goals and to assess the extent to which individual departments have contributed to meeting the targets set out in the federal sustainable development strategy.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act will clearly increase transparency and accountability and improve federal sustainable development planning and reporting. Bill S-216 offers further improvements to this important piece of legislation.
This government believes strongly in accountability. Improving Senate involvement in the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act will offer further improvement. Allowing the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development greater flexibility in the timing of his or her reports, which will contribute to the timelessness of the information contained in them, is another important accountability tool.
We are pleased to support this bill. We are also pleased that the draft federal sustainable development strategy that is required under the Federal Sustainable Development Act will be brought forward to Canadians shortly for their review and comment. The consultations will include standing committees of both houses of Parliament, this House and the Senate, the multi-stakeholder sustainable development advisory council created by the act, the Canadian public, and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
The views of Canadians will be heard and will be taken into consideration as we work together to prepare the final federal sustainable development strategy, which will be tabled in Parliament within the timelines outlined in the Federal Sustainable Development Act.
I began my comments with the need for a balance between a prosperous economy and a clean environment. This government is committed to that balance. It is committed to making sure that we have jobs for Canadians and that our economy is prospering and growing. However, sustainability also requires that we have a cleaner environment.
When the Liberals spoke earlier, it seemed that they were in a bit of a bad mood, but they know that this government is committed to cleaning up the environment. They were in government for 13 years and we saw growing greenhouse gas emissions and growing environmental problems, but those days are over. This government is committed to a sustainable development within Canada and that means jobs for Canadians and a cleaner environment.
We are committed to work with our international partners. I just came back from Copenhagen late last night. We are very involved with our international partners. Canada is a world leader with technologies such as carbon capture and storage. I heard that the world is depending on the United States and Canada to develop those technologies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canada is a superpower in cleaner energy with those technologies. Our commitment to carbon capture and storage is very important.
We have reduced emissions through stringent tailpipe emission standards, which begins with the 2011 model. Ninety per cent of Canada's electricity will be coming from environmentally clean sources by 2020. There will be a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It is one of the toughest targets in the world. That is part of sustainability. We are committed to a cleaner environment and prosperous jobs for Canadians.
I look forward to all-party support for Bill S-216. The government is proud of its actions and commitments to improve sustainable development in Canada while balancing environmental progress and economic progress. We are glad to support Bill S-216.