moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud today to speak about Bill . 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 , 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 . 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 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 .
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 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 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 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 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 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.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to engage in this debate on amendments to the Federal Sustainable Development Act, Bill . I believe Canadians understand that when governments make policy decisions, they should make those decisions through a lens that takes into account Canada's economic imperatives, our social imperatives, and our environmental imperatives.
The original act, as my colleague, the minister, mentioned, was passed a few parliaments ago, in 2008, under then environment minister John Baird. As members know, in majority governments, opposition private members' bills do not get passed unless they have the support of the government of the day. That is what happened here. Our government very quickly realized that sustainability had to be baked into everything the federal government did to ensure an appropriate balance between social, economic, and environmental factors within Canada. Therefore, we supported that act.
Upon further study at committee recently, of which I am a member, and was pleased to be part of the deliberations that gave rise to the report, and when we reflected on the act as it presently stood, it had a number of flaws that needed to be corrected. There was consensus at committee on the items that needed to be corrected. We were able to issue a consensus report, which is not always that common when there is a majority government that is fixated upon imposing its will on Parliament.
The act itself requires that all government decision-making is done with a view to future generations. I am glad my colleague, the , recognized the fact that the committee recommendations talked about the intergenerational nature of sustainability. Therefore, policy-making will be viewed through the lens of environmental, economic, and social factors to ensure that not only will today's generation have a lifestyle we can applaud, but is one that we can pass on to future generations to take up and build upon.
There are a couple of the things the proposed bill will do to amend the act. It will make more robust the provisions that require government agencies and departments to provide regular reports on their progress by ensuring they meet our sustainability goals. The number of departments and agencies has been significantly increased, those that fall under the act. They will be subject to a review of all policy-making through the lens of the Federal Sustainable Development Act.
Beyond that, there is an increase in the number of members of the advisory council that provides advice to the minister. There also are a number of items that we will likely bring forward amendments on at committee, for example, that the advisory council members be paid. Every time the Liberals come up with a new policy, or new legislation, or new regulation, they always increase the number of people who get paid. That costs the taxpayers money. As Conservatives, we can say, with absolute conviction, that we have always defended the interests of Canadian taxpayers. That is why we will bring forward amendments at committee.
We have had the Federal Sustainable Development Act in place since 2008, close to 10 years, and the Liberal federal government has been in place for two years. It has had the chance to understand the act and to apply it across all agencies and government to ensure our sustainable development goals are met. Canadians have the right to ask this. What kind of progress has the government and the minister made?
It just so happens that this week, when we began debate on Bill , the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development issued what was effectively an audit report under the Auditor General of Canada, highlighting the performance of the government and the when it came to sustainability and the environment. This is a damning indictment of the Liberal government's performance, not only on the environment file but on sustainability writ large.
I will go to the first report, which addresses the progress that might have been made on reducing greenhouse gases. Remember, the Liberal government boasted in the last election that it was the only party that could address Canada's climate change challenges. The Liberals have had two years to work on it. One would imagine, with all the rhetoric we have heard from them and from the minister, that there would be significant progress made. What is the conclusion of the Auditor General? It is an F, a failing grade. She said:
|| We concluded that Environment and Climate Change Canada...the measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contained in the framework had yet to be implemented.
It gets worse. She went on to say:
|| We concluded that Environment and Climate Change Canada...did not make progress toward meeting Canada’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
With all the rhetoric we heard during the last election and over the last two years, and the minister always talking about the environment and the economy going hand in hand, I would expect some progress would be made. However, the report says “no progress”. It is not just that there was insufficient progress, or not enough progress. The commissioner said that no progress was made, which is pretty damning. In the meantime, the one thing the minister and her government did was impose a massive carbon tax on Canadians, which is sucking dry the pockets of Canadian taxpayers.
It gets worse. The second report, which was issued this past Tuesday, on page 27, states:
|| We concluded that Environment and Climate Change Canada...did not provide adequate leadership to advance the federal government’s adaptation to climate change impacts.
It highlights a lack of federal leadership from the minister. It goes on to say that:
|| Most of the federal departments and agencies we examined did not take appropriate measures to adapt to climate change impacts...As a result, the federal government could not demonstrate that it was making progress in adapting to a changing climate. Stronger federal leadership is needed.
What a damning indictment of the Liberal government and the minister's performance on the environment file.
I believe Canadians can draw the conclusion that the Liberal government cannot be trusted. It would not be an unfair conclusion to make. When we look at the government's record on other issues, it is very clear the government, which made so many promises during the election, has now become a monument to broken promises.
The last two years are littered with broken promises. For example, on deficits, members will remember the said that the Liberals would run a $10 billion deficit. That was his word. Canadians took him at his word, and they elected him. Today we are looking at annual deficits of $30 billion a year. It is a huge broken promise. These deficits will be run in order to spend, spend, spend, not on the priorities of taxpayers, but on the priorities of the Liberal government.
Remember electoral reform, the promise that it would be the last election under the first past the post system? That is another broken promise, and what a fiasco that was. The minister lost her job as a result of that. Quite frankly, the buck should have stopped at the 's desk. He was the one who initiated that failed process. He had promised Canadians he would consult broadly, that it would be a fair process, that he would divine some kind of a consensus out of the process and then move forward. Did that happen? No. It was a debacle. At the end of the day, the Prime Minister said that because he could not find consensus, he would break that promise of electoral reform. It is a disgrace.
Then there is the whole issue of taxes, taxes here, taxes there, such as a carbon tax and a payroll tax. The most recent debacle the government engaged in was to bring forward reforms that would impose a huge tax burden, not on the big fat cats, not on the rich people in Canada, but on small businesses. We are talking about mom and pop shops, the pizza owner in my community, who employs his family and maybe some other employees. They are working hard to scrape by, earning maybe $50,000 to $80,000 a year. The government has now determined they should be the target of tax increases. These are not tiny tax increases like the tiny deficits the Prime Minister promised in the last election. He proposes to tax small businesses across Canada at a rate of 73%. It is disgraceful.
The government will take the revenues from the savings of these businesses and tax them at 73%. I have talked to businesses in my community. I have held round tables on this business tax. The business people, the ones who have the small business operations, which are the backbone of our economy, are outraged that the government, the , and the would tax small businesses at a rate of up to 73%. However, the finance minister's billion dollar company, called Morneau Shepell, will not be impacted. It will pay lower taxes on half-a-billion dollars worth of income every year. This is one of Canada's largest companies.
The Prime Minister, who has benefited from a trust fund, a family inheritance, his investments, will not be impacted by the changes brought forward by the Minister of Finance. Again, this is a breach of trust.
The government wants us to trust it. When it talks about the federal sustainability act, it wants us to trust that it will get it done. It promised Canadians it would protect the environment. It promised Canadians that the economy and the environment would go hand in hand. I remember the saying that time and time again. She said it again today, and we will probably hear it in question period.
What happened? Instead of understanding the economic component, the government has completely neglected our economy and the importance of small businesses across Canada. Ninety-eight per cent of all businesses across Canada are small businesses. They are the backbone of our economy. The Minister of Finance, aided and abetted by the environment minister, are attacking the very people who build and sustain our economy. Not only are they doing that, the government is proposing to introduce tax laws that will make it more difficult for farmers and owners of small businesses to transfer their businesses to the next generation. That is why it is ironic to hear the minister talk about how important it is to look at the intergenerational impacts of our policies.
If she is talking about the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which is supposed to marry the environment and the economy, why has her government completely forgotten about the economic component? It is unbelievable.
When we were elected, we predicted that the was making promises far beyond what he could deliver on. We knew that he was making promises that were raising the expectations of Canadians and that he would never meet those expectations. Guess what? We have been proven right. Day after day there is a new fiasco, a new scandal.
There is no transparency. Do members remember the mandate letters that the Prime Minister issued to every single one of his ministers, including the environment minister? I have read through that mandate letter many times, and I am thankful to the Prime Minister for giving us a glimpse of what he was hoping would happen here in Canada and here in this House. That mandate letter said that the Prime Minister wanted to set a higher bar for transparency and openness in government and wanted to set a higher bar for addressing conflicts of interest, such that not even a perceived conflict of interest would be acceptable to the Prime Minister.
However, we have seen that in attacking small Canadian businesses with his tax reforms, the stands to benefit from changing tax laws. Forcing small Canadian companies to de-incorporate would force those business people to invest in private pension funds and to have their pension funds administered by none other than the finance minister's own company, Morneau Shepell. We will hear more about that later in question period. The conflict of interest is jaw-dropping and is in such conflict with the minister's mandate letter.
The same is true for the environment minister. Time and time again I have requested the environment minister to provide me with departmental assessments of the impact that her carbon tax will have on Canada, including on our small businesses and on families across this country. The Liberals hand us the information, but it is heavily redacted, which means censored. This is a government of censorship. It does not want the public to know any information about what happens behind closed doors. What we had from the minister was not a clear presentation of what the impacts will be on our economy; we received a heavily censored document that did not help us make any kind of sense out of the government's policies.
We do have one report. It is from the Conference Board of Canada, which came out with a report showing that the carbon tax that the Liberals have proposed will have a modest impact on greenhouse gas emissions. When I say “modest”, I really mean a negligible impact. As well, the report says implementing the Liberal plan to address climate change is going to take trillions of dollars of investment.
The report goes even further. It says that under the Liberal plan, government expenditures will grow, and what will happen to the private sector? It says very clearly that the private sector will shrink.
As Conservatives, we have great confidence in the private sector. Small and medium-size businesses, as well as large businesses, all contribute to the prosperity we have in this country. This is a very credible report from the Conference Board of Canada, and it is shocking that it expects that the role of government is going to expand and that the role of the private sector is going to shrink.
I put a lot on the plate here. The government has a lot to answer for. We can do better, and if the Liberals cannot do it, they should step aside and let us do the job.