Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in Ottawa and in this new chamber. As a Conservative, I am dispositionally inclined to prefer old things to new things. However, this is a beautiful chamber. The architects have done a phenomenal job. It will be an honour to be here prospectively for 10 years, or shorter if my constituents feel that way, or much longer if things go the way projects in government sometimes go.
I know it has been an eventful break for some members. We had the resignation and then un-resignation of a number of Liberals. We are certainly hoping John McCallum does not un-resign as well. We also hope the Prime Minister does not see this important post as an opportunity to have a soft landing for yet another failing minister. In any event, there would be so many to choose from.
I hope the Prime Minister did not take any illegal vacations over the break. I suppose he would prefer if I called them “irregular” vacations. I hope the finance minister enjoyed his time away, as well. Perhaps he passed some truly unforgettable time at his villa in France.
I had the opportunity to meet many of my constituents over the break. Many of them are finding the government's approach hard to swallow, so I suggested they try plant-based alternatives instead.
If members did not notice, 2019 is an election year, which means I am sure we will get a lot of great non-partisan work done together. I know the ambulance chasers and un-Canadian Neanderthals on this side of the House sure appreciate the Prime Minister's commitment to positive politics.
However, none of us take the insults personally. We wish the Prime Minister very well with his upcoming transition to the private sector. I suspect that the response of voters to his policies will demonstrate exactly why the Prime Minister liked the idea of a basic dictatorship.
Before I get to the substance of my remarks, on a couple more serious notes, I had the opportunity to visit Taiwan over the break, which was a real pleasure. We have seen the increasing aggressiveness of the PRC government toward Taiwan. All members should understand the importance of standing in solidarity with our democratic partners in Taiwan.
There are many news stories that we see from time to time in Canada and around the world that jump out at us, and probably did during the break. However, I want to draw the attention of members to one in particular that jumped out at me. Prior to Coptic Christian Christmas celebrations in Egypt, a terrorist tried to plant a bomb targeting worshippers. In this case, disaster was averted because of police action. An officer, Mustafa Abid, gave his life as he sought to defuse a bomb.
Christians face challenges in Egypt and in many countries in the region. However, there are also many from the Muslim community who believe in their rights and work hard to keep them safe. I am sure all of us would join me in saluting the courage and sacrifice of people like Mustafa Abid, who set an example of sacrificial love and service to his country and to its minority communities.
I have the opportunity today to share a few brief remarks on Bill C-57 and proposed Senate amendments.
Bill C-57 sets out a legal framework for developing and implementing a federal sustainable development strategy and it seeks to make the process of decision-making accountable to Parliament. The act requires that all government decision-making is done with the view to the impact on future generations. In principle, I think we would all agree that decisions made by government should not be made merely in terms of present considerations, but we should think about the impacts down the road, not only on ourselves but on those who come after us. It is our responsibility to try to position our country in every policy domain for success over the long term to ensure that, as much as possible, the country we pass on to our children and grandchildren is even better than the one we received from our parents and grandparents.
Bill C-57 invites us to explore the mechanism by which that happens and the reporting mechanism by which Parliament is kept up to date on the particulars of plans by government that are aimed at advancing sustainability.
This bill was passed by the House, it went to the Senate and amendments were made in the Senate. Now it is up to the House to consider the particulars of the amendments and to reply to the message from the Senate that speaks to that. The amendments consider, in particular, the strength of the mechanisms by which the government can actually enforce its commitments, allegedly what it intends to do, with respect to sustainability.
The Senate saw it, as part of its amendments, to ensure performance-based contracts provided by the government to contractors and employees incorporated sustainability objectives. This is a laudable goal and one that seems quite naturally associated with the objectives of the bill. That is the second of the amendments we are looking at as part of the message we are considering sending back to Senate with respect to Bill C-57.
Unfortunately, the government has rejected this proposed amendment from the Senate. In the message, it states:
...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.
It seems to me to be a very strange basis for rejecting the amendment, since the intent of the bill is surely to improve the quality of decision-making with respect to sustainable development. Improving transparency is part of that, but it is not the only part of it. Also, the very idea of greater accountability should involve building sustainability into the metrics used in performance-based contracts. That is the nature of the amendment from the Senate that the government still proposes to reject.
The proposed rejection of this amendment raises many questions about how serious the government is with respect to its commitment to sustainability. Given the second rejection of this second amendment, we might consider how serious the government is about pursuing sustainability in general. Indeed, if we look at the actions of the government across a wide variety of different domains, we see its lack of engagement with this area of sustainability in particular. We have a government which is not at all interested in the substantive principles of sustainability. It might like to use it and see it as a buzzword, but it is a substantive idea in which we believe on this side of the House. I do not think the government across the way does at all.
What is sustainability all about? What is this principle that is lacking in the approach taken by the government?
Again, sustainability is about a belief that the decisions we make today should consider the impact on future generations. We should try this in every domain of policy. This word is typically invoked in the area of environmental policy and is an important concept in that context. However, across the board, the decisions made by a government should be aimed at passing a better country and world onto the next generation. We should not be short-term in our thinking and capricious about the direction we go. Rather, we should think carefully if the steps we take today will leave our country in a better position into the future.
What are the characteristics of this policy? I have talked a little already about the idea of an intergenerational lens, thinking about our own children, if we have them, or nephews and nieces, whatever the case may be and the impact this policy will have on them. It also calls for the exercise of the virtue of prudence; that is, seeing the world, the challenges we face, in the face they are. I know my friend from Spadina—Fort York, having read the book I recommended to him, After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre, will be more familiar with this concept now that the House has resumed; prudence in seeing the world as it actually is and making decisions in a judicious way, not considering simply how we might like it to be.
Some members across the way might like it if the way the world worked was that we could just run deficits in perpetuity. However, the reality of the way the world works is that we just cannot do this. As one former British prime minister said, either Thatcher or Disraeli, and my friend from Calgary Shepard will correct me, “The facts of life are conservative.”