moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill S-210 at third reading today.
The bill addresses an oversight in the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act, and I will briefly review how Bill S-210 would deal with this oversight.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act requires the government to produce a number of reports before the House of Commons. Bill S-210 proposes that the government also table the same reports in the Senate. The bill also proposes to give the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development greater flexibility regarding the timing of the tabling of some of the reports required under the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The government has no issue with tabling these reports before the Senate, nor does it have an issue with giving the commissioner additional flexibility. I believe all three parties will support the bill.
The wording for the existing provisions relating to the tabling of reports was largely borrowed from the provisions of the Auditor General Act. These only require the tabling of sustainable development strategies and the reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in the House of Commons. The bill would correct this oversight. The government is pleased to support the bill and will support the constitutional role of both Houses of Parliament.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act allows the government to spell out its environmental sustainable priorities more clearly. It requires the development of an overarching federal sustainable development strategy for the very first time since sustainable development strategies were introduced in 1995. This federal strategy would require every department to align its respective strategy to federal priorities.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act requires that a draft of the federal strategy be delivered to the Canadian public, to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and to a standing committee of the House of Commons for review and comment. As well, it would establish a sustainable development advisory council to be made up of representatives of the provinces and territories in order to have representation from labour, business, environmental organizations and aboriginal people who will also comment on the draft sustainable federal strategy. Delivering the draft strategy to Canadians in this way would help to increase transparency and accountability and it would help improve federal sustainable development planning and reporting.
Bill S-210 proposes to have senators review the draft of the federal sustainable development strategy and of all the other reports required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act. These include the supporting departmental sustainable development strategies and the triennial progress report on the federal strategy which is to be prepared by the sustainable development office in Environment Canada. Senate comment on all of these documents will improve transparency and accountability.
Further to this, a number of reports are required to be prepared by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development through amendments made by the Federal Sustainable Development Act to the Auditor General Act. For instance, the commissioner must offer an assessment of whether the targets and implementation strategies contained in the initial draft version of the federal strategy are capable of being assessed. The commissioner would also assess the fairness of the information contained in the progress report on the government's implementation of the federal strategy.
Finally, the commissioner would also continue to audit the departmental sustainable development strategies and report on the extent to which departments and agencies have contributed to meeting the target set out in the federal sustainable development strategy. At present, the commissioner can only table the results of such inquiries at certain limited times. The passage of the bill will enable the commissioner to offer more timely reports, as Bill S-210, in this respect, would allow greater discretion.
The federal sustainable development strategy is an excellent example of the democratic development of environmental policy. The federal sustainable development strategy would make Canada a world leader of the development of environmental policy by democratically elected leaders able to reconcile scientifically determined options with the social and economic goals of the people we represent, the people of Canada. I strongly believe that democratic governance is a far better approach to environmental policy-making than the alternative of judicial policy-making.
I realize that Bill S-210 is not highly controversial. Nonetheless, I am extremely proud that it is a bipartisan effort of Senator Tommy Banks and myself. I have appreciated Senator Bank's support and assistance and I am grateful for the unanimous support of the House for this bill to date.
I am pleased to support Bill S-210 and welcome Senate review of all the reports just mentioned and additional flexibility for the commissioner. I invite my friends from all parties throughout this House to join with me in focusing on the common concerns of all Canadians and support this bill.