Under Standing Order 108(1), the Committee examines, enquires into and reports on matters referred to it by the House of Commons, including legislation, departmental activities and spending, reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, and other matters related to the general subject matter of the environment and sustainable development.
In Canada, public interest in conservation and in the environment was apparent as early as the turn of the 19th Century after uncontrolled hunting had severely depleted populations of certain bird species. This led to the signing of the Migratory Birds Convention in 1916 between the United Kingdom (on behalf of the Dominion of Canada) and the United States and to its implementing legislation, now entitled the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.
The modern environmental movement is a more recent phenomenon. Many people maintain that it started in 1962 with the publication of Rachel Carson’s influential book entitled “Silent Spring” in the United States.
Several years later, recognizing a need for improved environmental management in Canada, Parliament began to legislate stronger environmental protection. In 1970 the Canada Water Act was passed and the Fisheries Act amended to protect all fish-bearing waters from pollution. The following year, the federal Department of the Environment was created. In 1973, the Canada Wildlife Act was enacted, and in 1977 the Fisheries Act was amended to protect fish habitat.
The predecessor to today’s Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development was not created until 1986. Prior to that time, environmental matters, such as acid rain, were largely dealt with by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Forestry and its subcommittee. As it became increasingly clear that the environment was a distinct subject matter, that committee was split into two new committees: the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the Standing Committee on Environment and Forestry. Under the chairmanship of Lorne Greenaway, M.P., the latter committee tabled its first report in the House of Commons entitled Forest Resources and Industries in Eastern Canada in June 1986.
Following the coming into force of what is arguably Canada’s central piece of environmental legislation, the predecessor to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, in 1988, forestry was dropped from the committee’s mandate, and it became known simply as the Standing Committee on Environment in 1989. The name by which it is now known, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, was adopted in 1994.
In the execution of its functions, each committee is normally assisted by a committee clerk, an analyst and a committee assistant. Occasional assistance is also provided by legislative clerks and lawyers from the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel. All of these individuals are non-partisan and serve all members of the committee and representatives of all parties equally.
The clerk performs his or her duties and responsibilities under the direction of the committee and its Chair. As an expert in the rules of the House of Commons, the clerk may be requested to give advice to the Chair and members of the committee should a question of procedure arise. The clerk is the coordinator, organizer and liaison officer for the committee and as such will be in frequent contact with members’ staff. He or she is also responsible to invite witnesses and to deal with all the details regarding their appearance before the committee.
The committee assistant provides a wide range of specialized administrative services for, in particular, the organization of committee meetings and the publishing of documents on the committees’ website. The committee assistant works with the clerk to meet the needs of committees.
The Library of Parliament’s analysts provide authoritative, substantive, and timely research, analysis and information to all members of the Committee. They are part of the Committee’s institutional memory and are a unique resource for parliamentarians. Supported by research librarians, the analyst works individually or in multidisciplinary teams.
Analysts can prepare: briefing notes on the subjects being examined; detailed study plans; lists of proposed witnesses; analyses of an issue with a list of suggested questions; background papers; draft reports; news releases; and/or formal correspondence. Analysts with legal training can assist the Committee regarding any substantive issues that may arise during the consideration of bills.
OTHER RESOURCES AVAILABLE AS REQUIRED
Within the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, Parliamentary Counsel (Legislation) are available to assist Members who are not in Cabinet in the preparation of private Members’ bills or of amendments to Government bills or others.
At various stages of the legislative process, Members may propose amendments to bills. Amendments may first be proposed at the Committee Stage, during a committee’s clause-by-clause review of a bill. Amendments may also be proposed at the Report Stage, once a bill returns to the House.
Once bill is sent to Committee, the clerk of the Committee provides the name of the Parliamentary Counsel (Legislation) responsible for the drafting of the amendments for a particular bill to the Members.
The legislative clerk serves all members of the Committee as a specialist of the process by which a bill becomes law. They are available to give, upon request from Members and their staff, advice on the admissibility of amendments when bills are referred to Committee. The legislative clerk organizes the amendments into packages for committee stage, reviews all the committee amendments for procedural admissibility and prepares draft rulings for the Chair. During clause-by-clause consideration of bills in committee, a legislative clerk is in attendance to assist the committee concerning any procedural issues that may arise. The legislative clerk can also provide Members with advice regarding the procedural admissibility of Report Stage amendments. When a bill is sent to committee, the clerk of the committee provides to the Members the name of the legislative clerk assigned to the bill.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO)
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) has a mandate to support Parliament and parliamentarians in holding the government to account for the good stewardship of public resources. The Federal Accountability Act of 2006 mandates the PBO to provide independent analysis to the Senate and to the House of Commons regarding the state of the nation’s finances, the government estimates and trends in the national economy.
The enabling legislation also provides the PBO with a mandate to provide analytical support to any committee during its consideration of the estimates, as well as provide advice to any Member of Parliament regarding the financial cost of proposals.
In June 2010, ENVI reported to the House of Commons regarding a proposed order amending Schedule 2 to the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. The order was subsequently made resulting in the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site.
In March and April 2010, ENVI reviewed the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy under section 9 of the Federal Sustainable Development Act. ENVI did not issue a report following this study.
Other Significant Studies
In June 2015, ENVI began a study on the role of the private sector in Canada in showing leadership by partnering with not-for-profit organizations to undertake local environmental initiatives.
In June 2015, ENVI reported on its study on licensed hunting and trapping in Canada.
In February 2015, ENVI reported on its study on the management of municipal solid waste and industrial materials.
In June 2014, ENVI reported on its study on Great Lakes water quality.
In the spring of 2013, ENVI began a study on terrestrial habitat conservation in Canada. No report was issued before Parliament was prorogued in the fall of 2013; however, the Committee returned to this study in the fall of 2013 during the second session of the 41st Parliament. The Committee reported to the House in February 2014.
In April 2013, ENVI reported to the House following its study on urban conservation practices in Canada.
In June 2012, ENVI reported to the House following its study to provide recommendations regarding the development of a National Conservation Plan.
During 2009 and 2010, ENVI studied the impact of oil sands on Canada’s water resources, but did not issue a report.