moved that Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud today to speak about Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act. This is an important step toward realizing our government's vision that Canada be one of the greenest countries in the world and that our quality of life continue to improve.
I am proud today to speak about C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act. This is an important step toward fulfilling our government's vision of making Canada one of the greenest countries in the world and ensuring that our quality of life continues to improve.
As I will explain, the amendments in the bill clearly show that sustainable development and the environment are at the forefront of our thinking and that our government's decision-making going forward will reflect this. I will discuss how these amendments would increase transparency and enable a whole-of-government approach to sustainable development, building on the current act and its implementation.
I will talk about the contributions of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development and how the amendments would respond to them. Finally, I will describe how the bill would support an ongoing conversation with indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and all Canadians about sustainability and the environment.
Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge all the people who have helped to lay the foundation for the bill. First, I want to thank the chair and the members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, as well as the witnesses who appeared before them during the committee's recent review of the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The committee's second unanimous report, “Federal Sustainability for Future Generations”, provided insights and recommendations that were instrumental in shaping the amendments.
I want to thank the hon. John Godfrey for bringing forward the original private member's bill that became the FSDA, establishing the foundation for a federal sustainable development strategy. I also want to thank my colleague and parliamentary secretary, the member for North Vancouver. His hard work and his leadership have helped us move beyond commitment and aspiration to the bill before us today.
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is at the heart of our government's agenda and priorities. Since the very beginning, we have consistently said that a healthy environment and a strong economy can and must go hand in hand.
The act also promotes integrated, coordinated action across government by requiring 26 departments and agencies to prepare their own sustainable development strategies that comply with and contribute to the federal strategy.
The federal sustainable development strategy that I presented a year ago today has shown what can be accomplished within the act's framework. It is bolder than previous strategies because it proposes 13 ambitious, long-term objectives that support the environmentally based sustainable development goals of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. It responds directly to the interests and priorities of Canadians. We are listening to them. We held over four months of consultations with the public and stakeholders, and we share Canadians' priorities, whether we are talking about the fight against climate change, healthy ecosystems, clean drinking water, or food security.
By going above and beyond what the law requires, we included more federal departments and agencies in our strategy than ever before. In response to a recommendation of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to take a whole-of-government approach, 15 organizations are voluntarily contributing to the 2016-2019 federal sustainable development strategy, on top of the 26 organizations that are already legally required to participate. That means a total of 41 federal departments and agencies have a role to play in making our vision for sustainable development a reality. That is eight more than in the 2013-2016 federal sustainable development strategy for Canada.
Building on the act's commitment to transparency and accountability, we have also committed to updating our strategy on an ongoing basis to ensure that Canadians and parliamentarians can closely track our accomplishments and results. We have acted on this commitment, publishing the first update to our strategy in June. That update shows that we have already achieved a number of the short-term milestones set out in our strategy, such as ratifying the historic Paris Agreement.
Now, just this week, we are tabling more than 20 departmental sustainable development strategies for organizations across the federal government. These strategies set out concrete commitments that will help us deliver on the goals and targets of the federal sustainable development strategy. By adding this substance and detail to our plan, the strategies will ensure that Canadians have a clear picture of what our government is doing to advance sustainable development in Canada.
We have accomplished a lot, but we are committed to doing more toward implementing a renewed federal sustainability approach built on accountability, inclusiveness, and an ongoing dialogue with indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and all Canadians. Bill C-57 reflects this renewed approach. It would raise the bar for transparency and reporting; create a truly whole-of-government system of sustainable development planning, reporting, and action; and ensure that sustainable development strategies are inclusive and support our commitment to future generations.
Transparency and accountability to Parliament are at the core of the current FSDA. They were key issues for the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development as it conducted a review of the act, and they are central to the amendments set out in this bill.
Parliamentarians have always played an essential oversight role with respect to how the government keeps its promises and delivers sustainable development results. This bill will augment and strengthen their role by requiring every department and organization to submit, to parliamentary committees, an annual report on progress toward meeting sustainable development targets.
It will also ensure that sustainable development strategies include firm targets so parliamentarians and Canadians can hold the government to account. Building on the existing act, the proposed amendments in this bill will make it clear that federal sustainable development strategy targets must be measurable and have set deadlines.
Sustainable development cannot be limited to one department or agency. Organizations across the federal government play a role in protecting and restoring Canada's environment and in improving Canadians' quality of life. As I have said, we have already increased the number of participating departments far beyond the 26 that are named in the act. These amendments would take us further, expanding our whole-of-government approach to more than 90 departments and agencies. These would include organizations with a significant environmental footprint, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. So we can maintain the whole-of-government approach even when circumstances change, the bill would enable the government to add or remove organizations from the act.
All these amendments would align with our commitment to openness and transparency and to leading by example. Amendments that require strong sustainability targets and accountability for results would also support our commitment to future generations to address climate change, develop our natural resources responsibly, develop the clean-growth economy, and modernize environmental assessment and regulatory processes.
Now I would like to discuss the work and recommendations of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development that have contributed to the amendments in Bill C-57.
Acting on our strength of conviction, we have taken truly meaningful steps, such as ratifying the Paris agreement, working with the provinces, territories, and indigenous peoples to develop the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, and making new investments in clean technology and green infrastructure.
We have also pledged our support to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, the global anti-poverty framework that leaves no one behind. The 2030 agenda's 17 universal goals signal a renewed global desire to make sustainable development a reality, and we want Canada to play a leading role in that movement.
I have already mentioned the invaluable contributions the committee made through its review of the FSDA last year in its report, “Federal Sustainability for Future Generations”. In that report, the committee stressed that the amendments to the act must begin with its purpose. I agree. Bill C-57 includes a revised purpose for the act, shifting the focus of our sustainable development strategy from short-term planning to long-term vision. It places the focus on inspiring economic, social, and environmental advancement toward a better future.
The committee suggested that the government review the use of principles in the FSDA, and Bill C-57 will add new, generally accepted sustainability principles to the act. Two basic principles are already set out in the act: the precautionary principle, which states that if there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation, and the basic principle that sustainable development is based on an ecologically efficient use of natural, social and economic resources.
These are essential principals, but other principles are also needed to provide departments and agencies, and the ministers themselves, a clear direction when preparing sustainable development strategies and measures. Bill C-57 will incorporate seven new sustainability principles, including intergenerational equity, a polluter-pays approach, and the internalization of costs. The committee highlighted the need to involve key organizations in promoting sustainable development within the government, and that is what we have done.
In 2016 we established the Centre for Greening Government within the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. The centre's role is to track federal greenhouse gas emissions centrally, coordinate efforts across government, and drive results. Through the centre, the Treasury Board Secretariat has taken on an instrumental role in advancing our commitment to reduce federal greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. The amendments to this bill would build on this, formalizing the Treasury Board's role in developing policies related to reducing the government's environmental footprint and ensuring that departments and agencies take these policies into account in preparing their sustainable development strategies.
Again, let me commend and thank the chair and members of the standing committee for their efforts in reviewing the Federal Sustainable Development Act and formulating their recommendations. This is how Parliament should work. The standing committee has tabled a thoughtful and unanimous report, and our government is responding with concrete changes. I want to thank all the members.
With the 2016-2019 federal sustainable development strategy, we have completed the first step in implementing the committee's report. Our strategy responded to its recommendations with more ambitious and measurable targets and a clear commitment with regard to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the core principles of sustainable development. Bill C-57 is the next step. The committee underscored the need to amend the legislation. We listened. This bill makes the necessary legislative changes to support a more inclusive, responsible, and integrated approach to federal sustainability. I want to emphasize how much I appreciate the efforts of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and I hope this excellent collaboration continues.
I would like to go on now to discuss how we are engaging indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and Canadians on sustainable development.
As we acknowledged in our strategy, our government cannot achieve sustainable development alone. It requires action across Canadian society: by provinces, by territories and communities, by indigenous governments and organizations, and by business and civil society. In fact, as our strategy makes clear, all Canadians have a role to play in building a more sustainable Canada.
The FSDA recognizes the need for an inclusive approach by requiring the government to consult with the public and stakeholders on each new federal sustainable development strategy.
It also establishes the Sustainable Development Advisory Council, which I chair, and which includes representatives of each province and territory, indigenous peoples, business, environmental non-governmental organizations, and labour. The input that Canadians provided through public consultations, including advice from the council, shaped our current strategy. Their comments showed that Canadians are passionate, engaged, and informed about sustainable development and the environment. Between February and June 2016, we received hundreds of comments on the strategy from people and organizations from coast to coast to coast.
Canadians have sent us a clear message that they support the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and they want us to take bold action on climate change. They have told us that they want mandatory and ambitious sustainable development objectives, clear and measurable targets, as well as concrete action plans. They also told us that our government's strategy should be a call-to-action that shows what every Canadian can do for the environment and sustainability.
As I explained, the strategy I tabled last October includes a response to the priorities expressed by Canadians as well as the international community. For instance, for the first time, the federal sustainable development strategy includes a target for sustainable food, something that has been neglected thus far, according to Canadians. Our strategy also includes information on things that every Canadian can do to help us achieve our sustainable development goals.
We are also committed to continuing the dialogue with our partners, stakeholders, and all Canadians as we roll out our strategy, which goes above and beyond the requirements of the act regarding consultation.
Indigenous peoples, communities, provinces, territories, and Canadians expect to be heard when it comes to the economy and the environment. Since tabling our strategy, we have maintained an ongoing conversation with Canadians to let them know what the government is doing, and to learn about their own actions to support sustainable development.
We will continue to engage with them on how we can use a strengthened FSDA to ensure that Canada is a sustainability leader. We want to hear from Canadians about how we can address climate change, support and promote innovative technologies, strengthen our economy, and create good-paying jobs for Canadians in the clean-growth century.
The amendments in Bill C-57 will support engagement by strengthening the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. The council brings together passionate, knowledgeable people from all sectors of Canadian society. It provided important input into our 2016-19 federal sustainable development strategy. For example, our ambitious target for clean water in first nations communities responds to the council's advice, along with comments from other organizations and Canadians.
With this bill, we have the opportunity to enhance the role of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council through legislative change. We recognize that the involvement in indigenous peoples in environmental and sustainable development policy is essential. These amendments would ensure that their voices are heard, by doubling the number of representatives of indigenous people sitting on the council from three to six.
In conclusion, the Federal Sustainable Development Act has had a positive impact on federal sustainability, helping us move towards transparency, accountability, inclusiveness, and a whole-of-government approach. However, our government is determined to do more.
With the renewed approach to sustainable development that this bill represents, sustainable development strategies will be guided by sustainable development principles and a more ambitious purpose that combines transparency and accountability with the aspiration to advance sustainable development in Canada and improve Canadians' quality of life.
Guided by the sustainability reports, our renewed approach will reassert and reinforce the role of parliamentary committees through a new requirement for an annual report from departments and agencies on their contribution to achieving our sustainable development targets.
The work of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has guided our approach, and the committee will play a key role going forward in holding the government accountable for results. This is the beginning of the next chapter in Canada's sustainability story. An amended act will provide the framework for action to fulfill our domestic and international sustainability commitments.
With the support of my colleagues, I am confident that we can achieve our vision of a clean environment, a sustainable economy, and a better quality of life for all Canadians.