moved that Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act, be read the third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act. I will describe how our government is taking action to ensure that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand; our work with provinces, territories, indigenous peoples, and international partners to address climate change; and our support for the global 2030 agenda for sustainable development goals.
I will go on to discuss how Bill C-57 supports our strong commitment to sustainability and how it will contribute to more effective, inclusive, and accountable sustainable development strategies in the future.
Let me emphasize again the importance of discussing how Bill C-57 would support our strong commitment to sustainability as well as how the proposed changes would contribute to more effective, inclusive, and accountable sustainable development strategies in the future.
First, I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The committee's unanimous second report, “Federal Sustainability for Future Generations”, provided thoughtful recommendations that were the foundation of the bill.
I would also like to congratulate the members of the committee for their work in considering and amending Bill C-57 and for taking part in fruitful discussions and debate. Their efforts resulted in a number of improvements to the bill, which I will be discussing today.
Of course, I would like to again recognize the hon. John Godfrey, former member of Parliament for Don Valley West and sponsor of the original private member's bill that became the Federal Sustainable Development Act. His vision and leadership gave rise to the current federal sustainability approach we are seeking to build on and enhance through the bill.
Bill C-57 is about advancing sustainable development in Canada. I have noted before in the House, and I will continue to emphasize, that advancing sustainable development is a priority for our government. Canadians have said that they want a sustainable future for Canada. We have always maintained that a clean environment and a strong economy can and must go hand in hand in the modern world. We also know that the well-being of Canada's future generations depend on it.
As part of the global community, we are all facing serious challenges, including the continued threat of global climate change. Here in Canada, we are already experiencing the effects of a warming planet from wildfires that rage longer and harsher than ever before, to thinning sea ice in the Arctic, to rising sea levels that threaten communities from coast to coast to coast, to unprecedented flooding, something we experienced first-hand here in the Ottawa-Gatineau area about this time last year.
Action is needed, and we are responding together with our partners in Canada and around the world. Our government is committed to supporting the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, the global framework to eliminate poverty, fight inequality, and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. As the Prime Minister said in his recent address to the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly, we are committed to implementing the 2030 agenda’s sustainable development goals at home while we work with our international partners to achieve them around the world.
The federal sustainable development strategy demonstrates our commitment to the 2030 agenda, with 13 aspirational goals that are a Canadian reflection of the global sustainable development goals. The federal strategy's specific, medium-term targets, short-term milestones, and actions show how we will implement the 2030 agenda for sustainable development’s environmental dimensions.
The amendments to the act would support future federal sustainable development strategies that would continue to align their goals and reporting with the 2030 agenda, ensuring that Canadians would have a thorough view of our sustainable development priorities and our accompanying national actions to advance the 2030 agenda.
Tackling climate change, the most pressing challenge of our time, is an important part of the 2030 agenda and is a priority for our government. Transitioning to a low-carbon economy is critical if we want to ensure a good quality of life for our children and grandchildren. Inaction is not an option.
Recognizing this, our government ratified the historic Paris agreement in October 2016 and worked with provinces, territories, and indigenous peoples to develop the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, Canada's comprehensive plan to reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy, accelerate clean growth, and build resilience to climate impacts.
Implementation of the framework is now well under way, with good progress already achieved on measures such as phasing out coal-fired power generation by 2030, developing regulations to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and introducing a clean fuel standard.
This past June, our government launched the $2-billion low-carbon economy fund to support projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are also working with provinces and territories to ensure that carbon pricing applies across Canada, including by developing a federal carbon pricing backstop system.
We also continue to work with our international partners to advance global action on climate change. Most recently, at the recent 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Canada became a founding member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which includes national and subnational governments, businesses, and non-governmental organizations focused on accelerating clean growth and climate protection through the rapid phase-out of traditional coal power.
This past November, Canada also became one of the first countries in the world to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. This amendment will phase down hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are powerful greenhouse gases. In support of our commitment to the Kigali Amendment as well as our made-in-Canada climate plan, we have published regulations to reduce HFC consumption in Canada by 85% by 2036.
We are also taking action to protect Canada's lands, coasts, and oceans. We are engaging coastal communities, stakeholders, and all four orders of government as we implement our oceans protection plan. As part of this plan, we introduced legislation in May to formalize the moratorium on crude-oil tanker traffic on British Columbia's north coast. We have also achieved our commitment to protect five per cent of Canada's marine and coastal areas by 2017, and we remain committed to protecting 10% by 2020.
In August, the federal government, Nunavut, and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association announced the official boundary for a new national marine conservation area in Tallurutiup Imanga, Lancaster Sound, which will be the biggest protected area ever established in Canada.
We are continuing to conserve and connect Canada's lands, lakes, and rivers. With the Government of Alberta, we are leading a process to meet our target of 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters conserved by 2030. This includes gathering advice from a broad range of stakeholders through the National Advisory Panel and the Indigenous Circle of Experts.
It is clear that we are taking effective action to realize our vision of a clean environment, a strong economy, and a better quality of life for Canadians. Much is being done, but more progress is needed to meet the challenge of sustainable development and to take advantage of its opportunities.
That brings me back to Bill C-57. This bill would make important improvements to the sustainability approach in the 2008 Federal Sustainable Development Act, particularly in the areas that require the government to prepare and report on sustainable development strategies. It would make these strategies more accountable and inclusive, thereby making them more effective. This would help to hasten our progress toward a more sustainable Canada, something I am sure we all support.
I would now like to take this opportunity to share the specific amendments proposed in Bill C-57. First, the bill proposes a new purpose, which clarifies that the focus of the act and the federal sustainable development strategy would be sustainable development, not strictly related to the environment. It would shift the act's focus from planning and reporting to driving action and improving Canadians' quality of life, and it would specify that the federal sustainable development strategy must respect Canada's domestic and international obligations.
Bill C-57 also adds principles to the act to guide our whole-of-government strategy, as well as the strategies of individual federal departments and agencies. These include, for example, the principle of intergenerational equity, which is absolutely foundational to the concept of sustainable development. The current act requires individual departments to prepare their own strategies that are in line with their mandates and that comply with and contribute to the federal sustainable development strategy.
The bill would also reinforce our government’s commitment to an inclusive sustainability approach by strengthening the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. It would double representation of indigenous peoples on the council from three members to six, and would provide the council with a clear mandate to advise me on sustainable development.
Finally, and most critically, it would strengthen the government's accountability for achieving concrete and meaningful sustainable development results. Part of the recommendations would shift the focus in the Federal Sustainable Development Act from planning and reporting to results. This is extremely important. We want to see results. We need to show that government departments understand the importance of sustainable development. One way to do that is to have strong targets, measurable targets, targets that have a clear time frame for their achievement.
Bill C-57 would ensure that future strategies would continue to have a focus on results and would increase the accountability of departments and agencies in setting and achieving ambitious sustainable development targets. This would enable Canadians to closely track whether the government was meeting its commitments.
Parliamentarians have an essential role to play in holding the government to account for sustainable development results. Bill C-57 would support and strengthen this role. Building on the requirements of the current act, it would ensure that federal organizations report each year to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and the equivalent committee of the Senate, on actions taken to meet their commitments and the results achieved.
Also, recognizing the crucial role of parliamentarians, Bill C-57 would provide for a permanent review of the act by a parliamentary committee. The review would be carried out every five years, further strengthening accountability and supporting continuous improvement of the act and its implementation over time.
I want to acknowledge that as well as providing the foundation for this bill through its unanimous report, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development strengthened it by studying the bill and proposing thoughtful amendments. I want to thank all the committee members for their contributions. Good ideas from all sides were considered, debated, and discussed.
While all the amendments accepted by the committee resulted in important changes to the bill, I would like to highlight a few in particular that would contribute to the government's sustainable development approach. First, the committee accepted an amendment proposed by the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands that added a new principle to Bill C-57. This principle tells us that sustainable development is an evolving concept. It clarifies that achieving sustainable development means protecting our environment, but it also means protecting health, promoting equity, conserving cultural heritage, respecting our domestic and international obligations, and recognizing our responsibility to future generations. Our government will look to this principle to develop strategies that go beyond environmental issues to address sustainable development as a whole and to draw on well-accepted approaches to promoting sustainability, such as applying the precautionary principle.
Public consultations are already an essential part of the current act. Comments from indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and the public shaped our current federal sustainable development strategy, leading to more measurable and ambitious targets, and a stronger focus on supporting the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
With the committee’s amendments, all federal organizations would take these comments into account as they prepare their own sustainable development strategies.
Finally, other amendments, including those proposed by the hon. member for Hastings—Lennox and Addington, would help focus the act on sustainable development as a whole rather than on the environment alone. One, for example, specifies that Treasury Board’s role includes establishing policies and issuing directives related to the sustainable development impacts of government operations and not just environmental impacts.
Taking into account these improvements, how would Bill C-57 support greater progress towards our vision for sustainable development in Canada? Quite simply, it would be through better sustainable development strategies that focus on results and reflect the priorities of Canadians and by ensuring that the government set clear and measurable sustainability targets and could be held accountable for achieving them.
I want to highlight in particular the impact of the new principles proposed in Bill C-57, particularly given the improvements made at committee. Principles are at the core of Bill C-57, defining our values and aspirations for sustainable development strategies. The bill would ensure that government considers principles such as intergenerational equity, collaboration, and results and delivery when preparing strategies. The new principle would provide clarity on the nature and scope of sustainable development, and approaches the government should consider in working toward sustainability goals and targets. Under an amended act, future strategies will clearly demonstrate to Canadians how our commitments and actions reflect these core principles.
This means that future strategies will benefit from a clear, shared understanding of the breadth of actions that contribute to achieving sustainable development and to protecting the environment, as well as protecting health, promoting equity, and conserving cultural heritage.
Future strategies will also continue to benefit from engagement with indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and Canadians. We saw the importance of this in the development of the current federal sustainable development strategy. Comments received through public consultations helped make our plan more aspirational, measurable, and inclusive.
Bill C-57, including the amendments made at committee, would build on this important component of the government’s sustainability approach. It would better enable indigenous peoples to play a strong role in guiding our sustainable development strategies and actions, including by increasing their representation on the Sustainable Development Advisory Council.
It would also enable me to engage more effectively with my council, including meeting with its members in person, something that has never been possible before. By specifying that the council's mandate includes advising me on matters related to sustainable development, it would address a clear gap in the current act.
All these measures would help ensure that our strategies, both the overarching federal sustainable development strategy and strategies of individual federal organizations, reflect the priorities of indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and Canadians. In particular, it would ensure that the unique perspectives of indigenous peoples are heard and taken into account.
However, strategies matter only if the government can be held accountable for results. That is why Bill C-57 would strengthen accountability under the Federal Sustainable Development Act. In requiring all federal sustainable development strategy goals to be measurable and include a time frame, the bill would ensure that Canadians are fully aware of what the government has committed to achieve and whether those commitments are being met.
With a new requirement for federal departments and agencies to report each year on how they are implementing their strategies and the results achieved, parliamentarians and all Canadians will be able to closely track the government's sustainable development progress and hold the government to account.
In conclusion, Bill C-57 reinforces our government's commitment to put sustainable development and the environment at the forefront of government thinking and decision-making. We believe it is a very important step that we need to take in order to ensure that we make decisions about a sustainable future in Canada, focusing on results and increasing the accountability of departments and agencies for setting and achieving ambitious sustainable development targets.
The bill supports modernizing the Federal Sustainable Development Act and incorporating into legislation our government's strong focus on results. The bill also promotes close collaboration and coordinated action across government through a whole-of-government approach. In short, this legislation would move us from planning and consulting on sustainable development to achieving and reporting on results.
I would like to once again thank the members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for their ideas, commitment, and collaboration.
I encourage all my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.