House of Commons Hansard #366 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was consent.

Topics

EthicsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, the minister answered the question yesterday. We know the report was tabled here and we thank the committee members for their work.

It is easy for Canadians to see whether the Conservatives are asking real questions or if they are simply hiding behind parliamentary privilege to make baseless accusations and smear a minister. Canadians simply need to check whether the members opposite will repeat the same allegations outside the House of Commons as they—

EthicsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order. The hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, something I hear in my riding is that releasing members and veterans are concerned about the length of time it takes to get a decision on an application for disability benefits. It was reported that Veterans Affairs might be looking to change the deadlines for those benefits.

I am proud to talk to veterans about all this government has done to start cleaning up the mess left by the previous Conservative government, but can the minister inform the House what steps he is taking to ensure that veterans and their families receive timely decisions?

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Seamus O'Regan Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, we will not change the deadlines for applications. Instead, we are investing in delivering faster, quality decisions for veterans. With our new programs and a new culture of “yes” on disability decisions, more veterans than ever are coming forward to get the help they need. We have invested $42.8 million, we hired more decision-makers and yesterday we rolled out an online wait time tool that will give veterans a better sense of how long applications for their conditions are taking. This is something veterans have asked for. We are listening and we are acting.

Indigenous AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are only 14 weeks left in this Parliament and yet the government continues to over-promise and under-deliver. How can we trust the Prime Minister's new commitments at AFN this week while his previous promises go unfulfilled? Additions to reserve are buried in a budget bill with no consultation, the languages act is nowhere to be seen and on the child welfare act, why the delay?

Can the minister tell us if any of his promised legislation will be law before this Parliament rises?

Indigenous AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Indigenous Services

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asked about several things. I will talk about the additions to reserve that was part of our budget implementation bill.

This is a really important piece of legislation. People from first nations have been asking for this for 40 years. Finally, this week I was able to tell chiefs that it is going to be faster to get additions to reserve, thanks to new pieces of legislation. This is good news and it will add to economic prosperity.

PensionsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Monday this week, the Ontario Superior Court gave the go-ahead for lawsuits to be filed against former owner of bankrupt Sears Canada, Eddie Lampert, as well as the former directors. This will allow pensioners and unsecured creditors to recover at least a portion of their money. The sad part of all this is that if the Liberals had simply changed the laws, then pensioners could have at least been spared the costly process to recover their hard-earned pensions.

When will the Liberals take action and change the laws to protect Canadian workers and retirees from pension theft?

PensionsOral Questions

3 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation

Mr. Speaker, our hearts go out to the Sears pensioners, as we have said on a number of occasions in this House.

In budget 2018, we made a commitment to take a whole-of-government, evidence-based approach to that question and the newly named minister is proceeding along those lines, as are other departments and ministries within this government. We will move forward with those consultations and we will come forward with a plan.

The EconomyOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, under our government's plan, the Canadian economy is among the strongest in the G7, unemployment is at its lowest level in 40 years and Canadians have created over 500,000 full-time jobs. By this time next year, the average Canadian family of four will have $2,000 more in its pocket each year than under the Conservatives. In the fall economic statement, the Minister of Finance announced new measures to strengthen our competitiveness, to help create jobs and to grow our economy for today and the future.

Can the parliamentary secretary tell the House how these changes will help Canadians?

The EconomyOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Jennifer O'Connell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance (Youth Economic Opportunity), Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Vaughan—Woodbridge for his work on the finance committee.

The Conservatives have no plan for the economy. We have a plan and it is working. We have lowered taxes for nine million middle-class Canadians and put more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 families with the Canada child benefit. In the fall economic statement, we took another step to support long-term economic growth. We are supporting new business investments in Canada to help businesses grow and create new jobs for Canadians across the country.

International TradeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, an hour ago, in my home town of La Pocatière, the best employees in the world, employees of Bombardier Transportation, held a peaceful protest to show that they have the ability, expertise, passion and determination needed to build VIA Rail's future fleet.

However, the transport minister is already washing his hands of this by hiding behind free trade. Meanwhile the deal that the Prime Minister just signed with Donald Trump still allows the United States to require that Amtrak trains be built in the U.S. with 70% American content.

Why did the Liberals give up so easily and not ask for anything for Canada's regions?

International TradeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount Québec

Liberal

Marc Garneau LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, as I explained to my colleague a few days ago, this project is being managed by a federal Crown corporation called VIA Rail. VIA Rail is the one responsible for replacing the fleet of trains for the Quebec-Windsor corridor.

Naturally, we need to respect international rules, under which we have free trade agreements with Europe and others, through the WTO. We cannot give Canadian companies special privileges.

International TradeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the only government not to give these companies special privileges.

While the premiers are meeting in Montreal to discuss the new NAFTA, Quebec is still waiting for a clear commitment to dairy farmers from the Prime Minister.

It has been two months since the House unanimously called on the government to fully compensate supply managed farmers for the three agreements it signed at their expense. It has been two months.

Will the government take advantage of the first ministers conference to commit once and for all to fully compensating supply managed farmers for the three agreements that betrayed them?

International TradeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Cardigan P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's question. However, the Prime Minister has been quite clear. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been quite clear. Most cabinet ministers have been quite clear. We are going to fully and fairly support our dairy sector and the supply management system. We have supported and will continue to make sure we support our agricultural sector. My hon. colleague is well aware that, during the negotiations and before the negotiations, the American government clearly stated that its intention was to destroy the supply management system. We made sure that did not happen.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, next week, at the meeting in Marrakesh, the government will discuss the global compact on migration. The issue of migrants is not strictly under federal jurisdiction. In Quebec, we also welcome, integrate and select migrants.

The Prime Minister cannot make unilateral decisions on this and leave the provinces to deal with the consequences of his decisions or his tweets.

Will he take advantage of his meeting with the first ministers to present the compact and promise to sign it only if every premier is on board?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Matt DeCourcey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, Canada fully supports the compact, which will play an important role on a global scale to ensure safe, regular migration.

We have consulted each of the provinces over the past two years, as well as Canadians, experts and academics. Nobody raised any concerns about the compact. We know that immigration plays an important role in Canada's economy. We also know it is important to be part of these international discussions.

Indigenous AffairsOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I pointed out in my statement that last week the Prime Minister was wrong in his justification for barring the Government of Nunavut from becoming a party to the two Dene treaties. Every modern land claims agreement in Canada's northern territories has involved three parties: the indigenous group, Canada and the government of the territory where the agreement is to operate. For numerous legal and constitutional reasons, these treaties cannot be implemented without the consent of the Government of Nunavut. When will Canada stop playing the colonial master, do the right thing and invite it to the table as a party and signatory to these treaties?

Indigenous AffairsOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Marc Miller Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, Canada remains committed to advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples to the conclusion of modern treaties. The Government of Nunavut has been participating in negotiations and its concerns are being addressed. The Government of Nunavut has always been welcome to sign these treaties as part of Canada as it has done previously. We have been negotiating these treaties for almost 20 years and are hopeful that the Athabasca Denesuline and the Ghotelnene K’odtineh Dene modern treaties will be concluded in the very near future.

Indigenous AffairsOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Now I believe the hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope has the usual Thursday question.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader if she could share with the House what the remainder of the week looks like, in terms of government business, and if she could also tell us what is on the agenda for next week.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

December 6th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will begin debate on the Senate amendments to Bill C-57, the sustainable development bill.

Tomorrow morning, we will start debate at report stage and third reading stage of Bill C-83, the administrative segregation legislation. Following question period, we will debate the Senate amendments to Bill C-21, the Customs Act.

Next week, we will be debating various government bills.

I would like to remind the House that, in accordance with the order adopted this morning, there will be an exploratory debate Monday evening at the usual time of adjournment. The debate will be on the subject of the opioid crisis in Canada.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bill Blair

moved:

That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the House:

agrees with amendments 1 and 3 made by the Senate;

respectfully disagrees with amendment 2 because the amendment seeks to legislate employment matters which are beyond the policy intent of the bill, whose purpose is to make decision-making related to sustainable development more transparent and accountable to Parliament.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Sean Fraser Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has helped shape Bill C-57. The contributions of many hon. members and senators have been invaluable to the process, and the bill reflects the hard work and collaborative efforts of many individuals.

In particular, I appreciate the Hon. Senator Griffin's efforts in sponsoring this bill and her ongoing support as it has moved forward. I would also like to thank members of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources for their thoughtful review and valuable insights.

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to recognize the work of members of the House, including members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, whose unanimous second report, “Federal Sustainability for Future Generations”, served as the foundation for Bill C-57. I look forward to the chamber's discussion of the Senate's amendments to the bill.

Today, I want to start by outlining the importance of the Federal Sustainable Development Act and how Bill C-57 seeks to improve upon the current version of the legislation. Then I will highlight some of the most recent documents we have released under the current act. Finally, I wish to outline our position on the amendments made in the Senate.

First, I will give some of the background. the Federal Sustainable Development Act was the result of a 2008 private member's bill. This was sponsored by the Hon. John Godfrey, former member of Parliament for Don Valley West. The act set out a number of requirements for federal action on sustainable development, including the creation of a federal sustainable development strategy and releasing a report on progress against the strategy every three years. These strategies and reports have been instrumental in guiding, tracking and reporting on Canada's actions on sustainable development in a transparent and accountable manner.

The catalyst for amending the original Federal Sustainable Development Act, as I mentioned previously, was the study conducted by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. Bill C-57 responds to the thoughtful recommendations of that committee's report and would update the act to better reflect Canada's current priorities on sustainable development.

The bill proposed to expand the scope of the act and provide a whole-of-government approach to sustainable development. It includes more than 90 departments and agencies and provides the opportunity to add other entities in the future as well. This will help to ensure that the federal sustainable development strategy reflects the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to sustainable development.

All federal organizations bound by the act will contribute to developing future federal sustainable development strategies and progress reports. The collaborative, whole-of-government approach to sustainable development will provide greater openness and transparency about our actions relating to sustainability.

Further, each federal organization will table its own sustainable development strategies and progress reports in Parliament. This will allow parliamentarians and relevant committees to review the progress of organizations and hold them to account for meeting their targets and goals.

At the heart of Bill C-57 are a number of important principles that would guide progress reports and strategies. For example, the principle of intergenerational equity, that it is important to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, provides an important context for the federal government's contribution toward sustainable development.

Other principles embedded in Bill C-57 include the principle of openness and transparency, the principle of collaboration and the principle of results and delivery. These principles will help guide the development of tangible, relevant and achievable goals and targets. The bill would also require targets in the federal sustainable development strategy be measurable and time-bound.

The bill would contribute to increased demographic representation and indigenous partnership. It would do this in three main ways, the first being through a new principle which would recognize the importance of involving indigenous peoples, because of their traditional knowledge and unique connection to Canada's lands and waters. Second, it would increase the number of indigenous representatives on the Sustainable Development Advisory Council from three to six. Finally, it would require demographic considerations such as age and gender be taken into account when appointing representatives to the council.

Bill C-57 is an important and inclusive step forward in the government's commitment to sustainable development.

Earlier this year, the bill was unanimously passed through the House with the support of all parties. I sincerely hope we can repeat that once more when it comes time for a final vote.

Our work on sustainable development continues. On December 3 of this year, we tabled the 2018 "Progress Report on the 2016 to 2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy” and launched public consultations on the draft 2019 to 2022 strategy. These products present results on where the federal government is in achieving its sustainable development targets and outline the environmental sustainability targets and actions it is proposing to take over the next three years.

We all wish to see a healthy, prosperous, safe and sustainable Canada, regardless of party, and considerable progress has been made toward achieving this vision over the past few years. The recently tabled progress report on the 2016 to 2019 federal sustainable development strategy helped show just how far we had come.

For example, the 2018 progress report shows that we may have met one target and are on track to meet the majority of the other targets laid out in the 2016 to 2019 development strategy. For instance, as of December 2017, almost 8% of coastal and marine areas have been conserved, on track to reach our target of 10% by 2020.

The government is also leading by example by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from federal government buildings and fleets. We have achieved a 28% reduction in GHG emissions relative to 2005 levels, more than halfway to the target of 40% by 2030. The progress report highlights that we are well on our way to achieving this ambitious target.

Just as important, we have identified areas where we need to improve. For example, the progress report reveals that we have some work to do on protecting terrestrial areas and inland waters. To this end, the $1 billion Canada nature fund announced in budget 2018 will help set us back on the path to achieving our target of protecting 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters by 2020.

This is one of the crucial contributions of the goals and targets in the federal sustainable development strategy and its subsequent reports on progress. They set a path forward and then tell us exactly how we have done and where we need to focus our ongoing efforts. Sustainable development is and will remain a priority for our government, and these strategies and progress reports ensure accountability in meeting our targets.

As I mentioned, the draft 2019 to 2022 federal sustainable development strategy has been released for public consultation. The strategy includes the participation of 16 voluntary organizations beyond the 26 mandated by the act. The draft strategy builds on the 2016 to 2019 strategy. It proposes targets, milestones and actions supporting 13 aspirational, long-term goals that reflect the Canada we want.

We expect to hear from a number of partners, stakeholders and Canadians whose input helped shape past strategies and will continue to be instrumental in helping to shape the 2019 to 2022 strategy.

As hon. members know, some of those partners and stakeholders include the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the House and Senate committees, which are responsible for regularly dealing with the environment, and the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. Our consultations are open until early April 2019 and we expect to hear from these groups and many other Canadians who are passionate about the environment and sustainable development.

This brings me to the amendments made in the Senate recently. The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources welcomed the bill and there was a fruitful discussion and debate on its various clauses. I thank everyone once again for the thoughtful deliberation. I would like to point out that the dialogue between the two Houses is a fruitful exercise in my opinion. I know the Senate considered the bill in a thoughtful manner and proposed certain amendments, which I am happy to address.

Three amendments were agreed to in the Senate. The first amendment was made to broaden the mandate of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. This change would allow council members to give advice on sustainable development matters beyond those referred to them by the minister. The Council would, however, continue to focus on the products set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The government is going to accept this amendment.

The second amendment, however, poses certain problems. The amendment to clause 8 seeks to reinsert a section of the Federal Sustainable Development Act that Bill C-57 in its initial form removed. That section deals with performance-based contracts within the Government of Canada. It states that these contracts shall include provisions for meeting the applicable targets referred to in the federal sustainable development strategy and the departmental sustainable development strategies. This section was repealed under Bill C-57 for a number of reasons.

The debate on the issue at the time that the original act was being considered reflects how unclear this section was, and still is. The Hon. John Godfrey, who I mentioned was the initial sponsor of the bill that resulted in the Federal Sustainable Development Act, said that this clause could be interpreted as a contract with an employee or a contract with a construction company. This confusion remains today. Having practised as a litigator in my career before politics, certainty in the meaning of legislation is essential so folks can understand exactly what their obligations are.

Some witnesses who have come before the House and the Senate have interpreted this clause as pertaining to performance agreements with senior officials. Others have interpreted it as pertaining to procurement contract and particularly green procurement. A clause without clarity is not one that should be in a bill.

If Parliament is concerned about procurement, the Treasury Board Secretariat's policy on green procurement already aligns environmental objectives to the departments' procurement activities, meaning this section's inclusion in the bill would be redundant and unnecessary.

Moreover, subclause 10.1, a new addition under Bill C-57, explicitly recognizes the power of the Treasury Board in establishing policies or issuing directives applicable to the sustainable development impacts of designated entities. The proposed amendment not only reinserts an already problematic clause, but it makes it even more problematic, extending it far beyond Bill C-57's intended purpose by entering into the realm of the employer's relationship with public servants. The amendment specifically adds employment contracts to the language on performance-based contracts. It says that these contracts shall include provisions for meeting the applicable goals and targets referred to in the federal sustainable development strategy and any organizational strategy.

It is the government's view that the reference to those contracts are outside the scope of the intent of Bill C-57 and it would be inappropriate to insert such prescriptive wording into the bill. Employment contracts are a matter for Treasury Board as an employer and they should not be subject to a bill whose purpose is to increase transparency of decision-making relating to sustainable development.

Given the expansive nature of performance-based contracts and employment contracts, it would also be difficult to determine what is meant by the use of these different terms, leaving the section option to difficulties in interpretation, which I flagged could pose problems.

Finally, tying targets directly to employment contracts is problematic because, as we know, the responsibility for meeting goals and targets extends broadly across different federal organizations and sometimes across many levels of government. It is not always the case that one department or one individual has complete responsibility for meeting the federal sustainable development strategy's targets. As a result, I do not think it is prudent to use the legislation to tie targets directly to employment contracts.

Accountability is the backbone of Bill C-57. It is what it is all about. While the intent of this amendment is to increase accountability, which I again thank the Senate for giving thoughtful consideration to, it is the government's view that the amendment could create more problems than it would solve.

As discussed earlier, robust accountability mechanisms are already directly embedded in the bill, and we believe they are more than adequate to meet our objectives. These include oversight by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the House and the Senate, the Sustainable Development Advisory Council and all Canadians. We release reports to the public on an ongoing basis and ask people for their input and insight.

Given the fact that the proposed amendment is imprecise and open to interpretation, the government does not see the benefit of inclusion and suggests removing it from the bill.

The third amendment that came from the other place deals with consequential amendments to the Auditor General Act. These changes would ensure alignment between the two acts and would seek to reconfirm the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development's role in reviewing the sustainable development actions of federal organizations. The government supports this amendment.

I greatly appreciate the time and effort of everyone involved in reviewing the bill. The Federal Sustainable Development Act is a cornerstone of sustainable development action in Canada, and Bill C-57 is an important update. I ask the House to accept the consequential amendments and the amendment to clause 5, but remove the amendment to clause 8 and send a message to that effect back to the Senate.

In the spirit of co-operation that we demonstrated back in June, when the House voted unanimously to support the bill, I am asking that we show the same spirit of unanimity in supporting this revised bill, so we can ensure the future is sustainable not just for this generation, but for generations to come.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could be so positive about the success of the application of sustainable development legislation. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development gave an absolute abject failing grade to all the agencies that were reviewed. A lot of her recommendations for greater accountability were rejected by the government. The other place made an attempt to change the bill.

One of the main amendments the commissioner had called for was specific reference in the Sustainable Development Act of the cabinet directive on sustainable development. The reason for that is that this directive would require every department and agency to do an assessment of policy program spending that is submitted to cabinet. One subset of this is the provision the government is refusing to accept from the other place, which was also recommended by our committee.

Bill C-57 is in fact not based on the review by the committee on which I used to sit. It is based on what the minister decided she would do to keep a reduced function of the bill in holding the government accountable for delivering on the sustainable development 2030 goals that our country signed on to.

Could the member speak to why the Liberals are not accepting these broader provisions to hold the government, the departments and agencies accountable for spending and assessing what the impact might be on the broad sustainable development goals?

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Sean Fraser

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her commitment to protecting our environment for future generations.

With respect to the proposed amendments from the other place which are before the House today, I note in particular this was not some sort of rubber-stamping a version of the legislation that we already wanted. In particular, I noticed that we have accepted the consequential amendments that align the auditor's functions with those outlined in the act, as well as the first amendment that was proposed.

I made the case during my remarks and provided a reasoned basis for why we rejected the other amendment that came forward from the Senate. To reiterate those arguments, the inclusion of performance-based contracts as an accountability measure, I accept that the intent was coming from the right place, but it caused certain ambiguity in terms of how the legislation could be interpreted. In addition to the ambiguity which could have been interpreted when we talk about performance-based contracts as being the procurement process or performance of employees, it has a wide swath of different possibilities and it creates uncertainty.

In addition, if we are actually trying to establish some accountability with respect to the sustainability of the procurement process, I note in particular that the Treasury Board Secretariat, through its green procurement policy, actually achieves a very similar function. If we are talking about performance-based contracts for employees, we may be required to track the sustainable development targets for an individual entry level employee whose function does not actually touch on sustainability.

With respect to the hon. member's question, the reason the one amendment coming from the other place was rejected was due to the matters I have raised, such as ambiguity, and frankly, bad policy.