House of Commons Hansard #217 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

TaxationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

TaxationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

The Liberals apparently do not want to have a petition from the physicians tabled in the House. I will report that to them.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to table.

The first petition is from Canadians who signed an electronic petition, 1018. They note that the vast majority of Canadians oppose cruel and inhumane practices against animals.

The petitioners call on the House to work toward having Canada become an animal testing free country by 2020, and ensure that existing and future animals in labs be released in good health instead of being euthanized until animal testing is phased out by 2020.

Temporary Foreign WorkersPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition has to do with Canadians who are very concerned about the treatment of temporary foreign workers in our country. They point out that many of them are exploited and that there is inadequate protection for them.

The petitioners call on the House to enact the recommendations laid out by the HUMA committee in the temporary foreign worker program report issued in 2016.

CabotagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, finally, I have a petition signed by hundreds of people who are concerned about the Emerson report suggestions to dismantle established rules governing cabotage in Canada.

The petitioners call on the House to protect Canadian seafarers and port assets to ensure Canada has a strong domestic internal waterway system that protects Canadian jobs and Canadian Maritime assets.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from a number of people in my region who are very concerned about what is happening in regard to the protection of our rivers and lakes. This petition pertains to the Thames River system.

The previous Conservative government stripped the regulations in regard to environmental protection connected with the Navigable Waters Protection Act. That made hundreds of rivers and lakes vulnerable, including the Thames.

As the Liberal government has failed to keep its promise to reinstate environmental protection, the petitioners want the Government of Canada to support my private members bill, Bill C-355, which commits to prioritizing the protection of the Thames River by amending the Navigation Protection Act.

Environmental EducationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.

It is a great honour for me to rise to present a petition to support a national environmental education strategy. The petitioners believe that the Government of Canada must play an international leadership role in promoting the importance of environmental education.

TaxationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the second petition, the petitioners urge the Government of Canada to seek to close tax loopholes, real ones, such as the stock options deduction that leads to some significant tax evasion, in the view of the petitioners.

PharmacarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the last petition is one we debated recently in this place, which is a call for a long-overdue national pharmacare program. The petitioners point out that we are the only country in the world with universal health care where that universal health care plan does not include guaranteed access to medically necessary pharmaceuticals.

Carbon TaxPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege today to present in the House a petition having to do with climate change and the carbon tax that is going to be imposed come January. It was unilaterally declared that there will be a national carbon tax before the premiers of the different provinces were even consulted. That is brought up in this petition.

In addition to that, this petition declares that Canadian governments already collect $17 billion annually from the oil and gas industry to fund essential government programs and services. It further brings up that there is no guarantee that a national carbon tax would be revenue neutral. It goes on to explain that this will, in fact, make life more expensive for everyday Canadians and will disproportionately target those who are poor within our country. It will do this by increasing already high prices on gasoline, vehicles, clothing, shoes, and the food we eat. Basically everything in Canadian society will go up in price.

For that reason, and because we are already facing tough economic times in Canada, many members in my riding signed this petition. They are calling on the Government of Canada to not unilaterally impose any national carbon tax or pricing mechanism that would duplicate existing provincial programs and harm Canada's economic competitiveness domestically, in North America, or internationally. I think it is fair to say that what I am holding in my hand is basically a cease and desist order.

Abandoned VesselsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, to solve, once and for all, the long-standing abandoned vessel problem, I bring again to the House voices from Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Gabriola Island, and Honeymoon Bay calling on the government to vote in favour of my bill, Bill C-352. It would make the Coast Guard the responsible agency, the one-stop shop, for dealing with emergency abandoned vessels and would also institute a program, in co-operation with coastal communities and the provinces, to deal with vessel recycling, finding new markets for fibreglass, and preventing the oil spill risks that abandoned vessels pose. I urge Parliament and the government to take the advice of these petitioners and act now for coastal communities.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I will be sharing my time with the member for Whitby.

I would like to speak about an issue in relation to Bill C-57 that is really important, not just to all Canadians but to many of my Pontiac constituents. There are a great number of Pontiac residents who work as public servants within the federal civil service. Many of them, across all departments, recognize the importance of the federal government, as a whole, contributing to a greater degree to achieving our sustainable development objectives. It is for this reason that I rise with great pleasure today. It is important that we have a discussion about what the federal government can do as an entity to better the outcomes toward sustainable development. Whether it is with regard to climate change or a reduction in the use of toxic substances, this is an important issue in my riding.

Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act, was introduced in the House on June 19, 2017 by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. It amends the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which has been in effect since 2008, and seeks to broaden the scope of that act, make the process for developing the federal sustainable development strategy more transparent, and increase accountability to Parliament.

The first thing that has to be said is that this Federal Sustainable Development Act is important, because it helps create a federal sustainable development strategy. To many Canadians, this is internal business of the government, and it is, but it is business that reflects the interests of all Canadians. If one considers how many buildings are operated by the federal government, how many cars are purchased by the federal government, and what kinds of procurement decisions are made by the federal government, one can see just how important and how impactful a federal sustainable development strategy can be.

The Act requires federal departments and agencies to prepare their own sustainable development strategies. Each strategy must contain the department or agency's objectives and plans, comply with and contribute to the federal sustainable development strategy, and be appropriate to the department or agency's mandate.

The commissioner of the environment and sustainable development is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the progress of departments and agencies in implementing their strategies.

This is a perfect example of how Parliament works under a Liberal government. In spring 2016, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development conducted an assessment of the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

This standing committee study was a perfect example of how Parliament can work when there is collaboration among different parties. This was actually the very first piece of work I had the privilege of being involved in with the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. I would like to take this opportunity to commend my colleagues on the opposite side, both Conservative and New Democratic, and there was also some good input from our Green colleague, for working together in recognition of the fact that the Federal Sustainable Development Act is not a perfect law. One of the reasons it is not a perfect law is that, as I mentioned, it was in fact passed in 2008 as a private member's bill. The law itself did not emerge as a government bill back in 2008, and it needed some updating. Parties worked together in this committee and came forward with some really interesting proposals for reform. I should add that these proposals were unanimously agreed upon, and they were tabled here in the House by the chair of our committee.

This is the result of a positive process, a process the Minister of Environment and Climate Change clearly took note of. She herself responded very positively to our report. That is why we see Bill C-57, which reflects a number of the amendments proposed by our committee.

Our assessment revealed various weaknesses in the current process for developing and implementing the federal sustainable development strategy. The committee's report contained 13 recommendations to correct these weaknesses. The minister agreed, on behalf of the federal government, to propose changes to improve the act's effectiveness and the federal government's performance in sustainable development.

The bill makes more federal entities subject to the act. From now on, the act will apply to all designated entities, meaning all of the departments, agencies, and agents of Parliament named in schedule I.1 to the Financial Administration Act, and all departmental corporations listed in schedule II to that act.

We are talking about a much broader application of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, and that is a very positive development.

First, the legal framework for developing and implementing a federal sustainable development strategy must now increase the transparency of federal decision making in relation to sustainable development rather than to the environment.

Second, the sustainable development strategy must now promote coordinated action across the Government of Canada to advance sustainable development and respect Canada’s domestic and international obligations relating to sustainable development, with a view to improving the quality of life of Canadians.

The bill lists a number of principles that must be considered in the development of sustainable development strategies.

In addition to the principle that decisions are to integrate environmental, economic and social factors, the bill adds the principle of integenerational equity, the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle, the internalization of costs, openness and transparency, the involvement of Aboriginal peoples, collaboration and a result-based approach.

I will have a few more things to say about the issue of principles in this bill, and I will come back to that momentarily.

There will also be improvements to the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. The bill sets out the role of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council, which is to advise the minister on any matter related to sustainable development that is referred to it by the minister. The bill also changes the council’s membership by increasing the number of aboriginal representatives from three to six, and adds a provision calling on the minister to ensure that, to the extent possible, the council’s membership reflects the diversity of Canadian society.

The bill amends the way in which designated federal entities develop their own sustainable development strategies and report on their progress. Under the new provisions, the Treasury Board may establish policies and directives regarding the environmental impact of the operations of designated entities, and designated entities must take these policies and directives into account when preparing their sustainable development strategies.

Lastly, the bill authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations prescribing the form and content of the sustainable development strategies of designated entities. The Governor in Council may also, by order, add or remove entities from the list of designated entities subject to the act.

The bill adds a new provision requiring a review of the act by a parliamentary committee—a House of Commons, Senate, or joint committee—every five years following the coming into force of the bill, which is a worthwhile initiative.

One aspect that makes this bill touch down is that it goes to how each department is going to become more sustainable in its everyday operations. For example, when departments like Global Affairs Canada make a commitment to buy more eco-friendly cars, hybrid or electric vehicles, or Heritage Canada commits to establishing electric recharge stations at Terrasses de la Chaudière, these are concrete measures. We need our departments to concretely make advances so that we can achieve sustainable development.

If there is one thing I would like to conclude with, it is simply that I look forward to a discussion before our standing committee during clause-by-clause, because there are aspects of this bill that can be improved, notably with regard to the addition of additional principles. However, all in all, I think the Minister of Environment is to be commended for this bill.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I think it is worth mentioning the name of the former member of Parliament who brought forward this legislation as a private member's bill when it was originally passed during the years of minority government under the former prime minister, Stephen Harper. It was the hon. John Godfrey, with whom I have had decades of friendship. I met him initially when he was president of King's College in Halifax.

Since the hon. member was a member of the environment and sustainable development committee that worked on what I think is an excellent report on how to improve this act, I would ask him in which respects the current legislation differs from the recommendations of the parliamentary committee.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for the positive comment about the committee's work, and absolutely for the reference to former member Mr. Godfrey, who was a witness before our committee. His service over many years to Canadians in the direction of sustainable development was remarkable. I tip my cap to him.

With respect to the committee's report on the government's proposed legislation, we are looking forward to a back and forth, and I do not think that the Minister of Environment is closed-minded as to suggestions on how it could be improved.

As I mentioned, I would like to see some additional principles of environmental law considered in the context of the bill, particularly with regard to prevention; the principle of substitution; the principle of non-regression, which is a key principle given the decade prior to 2015 that we endured where regression was the name of the game for environmental law reform; and also the principle of environmental justice.

Another issue that is going to be important to discuss is the role of central agencies in the implementation of this legislation. Obviously, Treasury Board would have a key role to play pursuant to the bill.

There is an open discussion to be had about what the proper governance mechanisms are to achieving sustainable development across federal departments.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, it is always encouraging to hear that a committee's recommendations are incorporated into legislation.

For the purpose of people who are not familiar with this piece of legislation, such as myself, what concrete difference will it mean pre and post this legislation, for instance, to a department such as the Department of Justice or the Department of Public Safety? That is so that people have a concrete feel of what this legislation would make in terms of real difference to real departments.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Madam Speaker, the member asked a good question, because at the end of the day Canadians need to understand the concrete purpose of this legislation.

Department by department, there are sustainable development strategies that are developed pursuant to the existing law, but there are many federal agencies that are not covered within the ambit of this legislation, Canada Post, for example. A whole range of government entities ought to be preparing sustainable development strategies, ought to be contributing toward the sustainable development goals we have established pursuant to international agreement and the work our country has done with countries across the world before the UN.

We need to appreciate that if every department is looking for opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the impacts on the environment and on social and economic outcomes, through its own purchases, whether it is with a fleet of cars or with respect to building repairs and new building criteria, that these are all opportunities for the federal government to drive our markets toward sustainability outcomes. Canadians will be supportive of that, particularly in the Pontiac, where we have so many civil servants who are working in these buildings and driving these fleets of cars.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Madam Speaker, I am proud to stand here today to speak to Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

I want to thank the House Standing Committee on Environmental and Sustainable Development for the recommendations for legislative amendments to strengthen the act.

In October 2016, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change agreed with the recommended amendments, and committed to report back within one year on action taken. The bill responds to the committee's recommendations by shifting the focus of the Federal Sustainable Development Act from planning and reporting to results, and increasing the accountability of departments and agencies for setting and achieving ambitious sustainable development targets.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, I understand that the 2030 agenda on sustainable development is the defining global framework of our time. I am glad that Canada is fully committing to the agenda, both at home and abroad.

It is here that I will start with an example of how Canada is achieving these sustainable development goals, the SDGs, worldwide.

In January, I had an opportunity to visit Ghana. Through the work of the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, administered by a local Ghanian non-governmental organization, A Rocha, it aims to empower community members, especially women, to sustainably manage their own mangrove resources, resulting in productive and profitable fisheries, coastal ecosystem conservation, and improved resilience and rural livelihoods. This project operates in two small communities in the coastal town of Winneba, Ghana, and seeks to build resilience against climate change and promote a sustainable multi-land use approach for the management of the mangrove ecosystems. It also works with women's groups to build their capacity, and the capacity of their members, for businesses and within the value chain. Finally, the project aims to restore the ecological integrity of degraded mangrove stands and the adjacent ground that surrounds them.

Often we think of development in terms of developing countries versus developed countries—it is here versus there—but in order to achieve the 17 goals and 169 targets, we need to work together. The interconnectivity of the sustainable development goals, the SDGs, forces us to work across country borders, and, of course, here at home across provincial borders as well. The ability to work together is best demonstrated through our young people.

In early June, I had the pleasure of meeting 40 children in grades three to 11 from Toronto and Niagara, through Millennium Kids. They presented me with gift boxes representing the SDGs that showed how the goals apply both at home and abroad. Millennium kids are interested in Canada's funding for development, its plan to implement SDGs, and building greater awareness for the SDGs. Young people, like those in Millennium Kids, will most be affected by the actions we take today, the actions we take to tackle the problems that face our world, including climate change. Their concerns should be our concerns. I am glad to see this legislation providing a roadmap toward solving the problem that will affect our youth for years to come.

Residents in my town of Whitby and the region of Durham understand as well that the changes we face can be summarized by warmer, wetter, and wilder weather. Durham's community climate adaptation plan includes 18 proposed programs that address local adaptation measures within Durham region. Since much of Durham's physical infrastructure was built in the 1950 to 2000 period, it was designed to be resilient to the climate in that period. The region understands that this climate no longer exists. Therefore, we not only need to upgrade our infrastructure to make it more resilient to the climate of the present, but to look ahead to see how we could build resiliency within our communities. Even within our small towns like Whitby, we are taking the necessary precautions to build a more resilient community.

On October 6, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change stood in this House and defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. I am glad that Bill C-57 includes an expanded set of sustainable development principles, including pollution prevention and intergenerational equity, the important principle that comes to mind when I think of the millennium kids and the residents of Whitby. Canadians of all ages have clearly told us that they want a sustainable future for Canada. This bill clearly shows that sustainable development and the environment are top of mind and a major priority for our government going forward.

In the time that I have remaining, I would like to demonstrate how our government has already proven, in the work that we have done so far, how we have committed to these 17 sustainable development goals. There is more that we can do, but we are building on a track record, and one that is positive.

On goal number one and goal number two, no poverty and zero hunger, we are developing a poverty reduction strategy. We have introduced legislation such as the Canada child benefit that will lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty and will give more money to nine out of 10 families.

When we look at goal number three, good health and well-being, we have made a commitment of $5 billion to ensure the mental well-being of our young people under the age of 25.

Goal number four is quality education. We are making it easier for adults to go back to school, boost their skills, and get new certification by expanding Canada student grants. We are creating thousands of new work and co-op opportunities so that people can have the skills they need to have a good quality of life.

Goal number five, which is central to my work within international development, is gender equality. We led by example with a gender-balanced cabinet. Budget 2017 was the first ever budget to include a gender statement. The Minister of International Development and La Francophonie delivered the most ambitious feminist international assistance policy, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs ensured that all our trade policies include gender equality.

Goal number six is clean water and sanitation. Our commitment to eliminate boil water advisories is something that remains top of mind for our government.

I could go on. Goal number eight is decent work and economic growth. We have recently announced that we are reducing the small business tax rate for small and medium-sized enterprises, ensuring that they are able to grow and create good-paying jobs.

Goal number nine takes into consideration the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. He has just announced the creation of a supercluster, which is a business-led initiative, partnering with SMEs, large businesses, small businesses, and academia.

I would like to end on what I think is one of the most essential of the sustainable development goals, which is goal number 17, around partnerships. Canada has been very diligent in ensuring that we are creating the necessary partnerships around the world with businesses, academia, with other neighbouring countries. As part of that, Jamaica, which is in the Caribbean, and Canada, have formed a group of friends looking at ways to explore how we are going to finance the SDGs. We have to think about our sustainable development in a broad context. We have to think about how we can all work together to not only communicate the goals of sustainable development but also ensure that we achieve them without leaving anyone behind.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I was thinking as the hon. member was speaking that we seem to be sleepwalking into catastrophic events. As a brief canvas of what is going on in North America, we have had fires in California. We were at a caucus meeting in Kelowna this summer, and there were fires all up and down the B.C. interior. There were catastrophic hurricanes in Houston, in Florida, and the Caribbean. I know the hon. member has ties to the Caribbean. I wonder whether the hon. member might be prepared to comment on this apparent sleepwalking by some members of not only this House, but particularly Congress in the United States, about these catastrophic events that seem to be becoming much more frequent, and for which we do not seem to be willing or able to prepare in any kind of fashion.