Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I have prepared something here in writing, which I will convey to you.
I also want to say good afternoon to the committee members.
I want to thank the committee for inviting me to speak about New Brunswick's efforts to ensure sustainable development, in the context of the committee's deliberations on .
At this time, Mr. Chair, I would like to introduce you to two of the personnel who work with us in the Department of Environment. The first is Kim Hughes, the director of sustainable planning. Also, we have Liane Macfarlane, who's the director of policy and strategic planning. When it comes to questions later, they will be happy to answer any technical questions the committee may have.
The province of New Brunswick is entering into a period of change that will make itself sufficient and that will promote sustainable development.
Our deliberations regarding this approach for building sustainable communities is an important element of our self-sufficiency program in New Brunswick, as developed in our action plan. A copy of this action plan, along with all other pertinent documents, will be available to the committee members.
I hope that this brief presentation will clarify for you our approach to sustainable development.
Let us now go to slide number 2.
Sustainable development is about the sustainability challenge. Basically, we humans are using up our resources--our natural capital--faster than they are available, and we are exceeding the carrying capacity of the earth's ecosystem. As part of this challenge we need to focus on solving the gap, the ecological overshoot, between the earth's carrying capacity and our consumption habits.
One of the symptoms of exceeding our carrying capacity is a changing climate. As a result of climate change, New Brunswick's coastal communities are and will be affected by sea level rise, erosion, and salt water intrusion. Communities such as Le Goulet, in northern New Brunswick, and Pointe-du-Chêne, in the south of New Brunswick, are directly threatened by the impact of sea level rise. Inland water resources, both their quality and quantity, are also impacted. Flooding events in the Saint John River Valley are now affecting communities and people in a large area of the province.recently visited this area to observe the flood damage in person.
People today are more aware of issues such as climate change, the links between pollution and health, the energy crunch, water shortages, and floods. This awareness is the basis upon which we can build change. In New Brunswick we are using this to advance the concept of sustainable communities, the foundation of which is sustainable development. It means changing the way we do things. There are incredible opportunities for innovation.
In New Brunswick, we believe that sustainable development means the integration of economic, environmental and social factors into decision-making. Environmental, economic and social issues cannot be dealt with as if they were independent and parallel entities. A balance of these three factors, for current and feature needs, will translate into economic growth, social progress and environmental stewardship, and this is often considered as a triple result of our decisions regarding sustainable development.
This balance can also be seen as resulting from a coordination of the decisions regarding financial capital, human capital and business practices.
Let us now go on to slide number 4.
New Brunswick's approach to sustainable development is based on this integration of environmental, economic, and social goals. It is also about a process to engage citizens and empower decision-makers. We understand that to be successful, any activities and actions toward sustainability must be undertaken with partners who plan their future together in a sustainable manner. It is about guiding the right development to the appropriate location. Ultimately, it's about building livable communities and sustainable communities that plan for the future at the local, regional, and provincial levels.
I would like to give you a few examples of our way of implementing sustainable development methods and building sustainable communities.
First, we created a structure and a mandate to support the planning of sustainable development in New Brunswick. The Department of the Environment is in charge of environmental legislation and legislation on community development. We created the Sustainable Planning Branch, which is in charge of coordinating planning, land use, the use of water and air, resources as well as the monitoring of a network of planning district boards which are responsible for providing development services at the local level and for giving support to municipalities.
Secondly, we are changing our relations and partnerships in order to promote sustainable development. The sustainable community initiative and the more recent study of sustainable communities in the greater Saint John region are innovative approaches that we adopted to promote the concept of sustainable development.
Third, we are developing tools to build sustainable communities based on a specific initiative of durable community design, which applies conservation design principles to the development of land lots. Moreover, we are carrying on with the development of our program for contaminated sites.
Now let us go on to slide number 6, please.
In November 2007, the greater Saint John sustainable communities case study was launched. The objective was to gain an understanding of how to build sustainable communities. It included 35 opinion leaders from the five communities of the greater Saint John region and senior-level participation from five provincial government departments. It also explored transforming relationships and how we deal with communities at large and government departments. Copies of the final report on this initiative can be found online at our department website.
So what have we learned? Well, a number of actions were identified as outcomes in the areas of leadership, strategic approaches, meaningful public engagement, and the creation of sustainable community plans.
The case study is strongly linked to our government's self-sufficiency objectives. With this case study, we are creating the building blocks necessary to implement a strategic approach to regional planning. It will assist us in working to develop the mosiac of sustainable communities throughout a self-sufficient New Brunswick.
Slide 7, please.
The design of sustainable communities for urban development is an avant-garde approach in urban development that tries to mitigate the negative human impact on the environment and to enable the community to function by using another planning design. This approach allows the developer to cut down on infrastructure costs and to increase residential density, while still protecting the environment. It gives residents various choices of residence with access to nearby natural spaces as well as to opportunities to reduce their impact on their environment. For example, one of the projects brought together many partners, including a private promoter, the Town of Dieppe, the School of Planning of Dalhousie University, several provincial departments, the University of Moncton, the New Brunswick Community College, as well as a local elementary school.
The project was developed based on sustainability principles so as to build liveable communities. I am glad to state that the sustainable community design initiative in New Brunswick is arousing interest all over Canada. We contacted promoters, not only in our province but also in other regions of Canada, for example, in the cities of Calgary, Alberta, and of Trois-Rivières and Sutton, Quebec.
Let us now continue with slide number 8, please.
New Brunswick employs an innovative and proven approach to contaminated site management. The Atlantic risk-based corrective action approach has been developed by many partners, including business interests and Atlantic government regulators.
I am pleased to inform you today that the Atlantic risk-based corrective action approach has been used in New Brunswick to remediate and improve more than 1,450 contaminated sites since 1999. This technical tool can be used to facilitate the redevelopment of brownfield lands previously abandoned and unsuitable for development in our communities.
Slide 9, please.
This is an example of the redevelopment of contaminated sites in Moncton. It would be interesting to look at the photographs taken before and after decontamination. You will see that there was considerable change.
The Government of New Brunswick and the people in the Moncton region are very glad that the site that used to serve for repairing trains, which is called a brown field, has become a very liveable place.
Slide number 10, please.
In moving to develop a comprehensive provincial brownfield redevelopment plan, we are interested in pursuing a dialogue with the federal government on ways to promote brownfield redevelopment—for example, incentive programs, harmonizing our regulations, and broader adoption of the other CCME brownfield recommendations. These are only three examples of actions we're undertaking to achieve sustainable development.
Slide 11, please.
New Brunswick has created an organization and proposed suggestions to promote sustainable development through the concept of sustainable communities.
However, sustainable development will not be brought about overnight. We are currently modifying our practices in view of our objectives, which means that we are attracting and promoting methods of sustainable development and we are becoming recognized as leaders in this field.
The Department of the Environment and our government both appreciate the values of commitment and innovation displayed by every stakeholder in our effort to standardize decision-making in view of sustainable development. We are on the way to integrating our social, economic and environmental decisions and we are constantly making progress.
We want to make sure that our way of implementing sustainable development is fair, efficient and effective for all the communities in New Brunswick. We also want to build sustainable communities in a self-sufficient province.
Let us go on to slide number 12, please.
I trust that you've found what we're doing in New Brunswick valuable for your deliberations. I would like to thank the committee chair for inviting me to share with you today our vision for sustainable development and our experiences. I welcome the opportunity to answer some of your questions or to consult with my department staff for further information on the initiatives we are pursuing.
Thank you for the introduction and for the opportunity to brief you on the Swedish experiences of target-setting in the area of sustainable development.
The Swedish Parliament has adopted 16 environmental quality objectives with the overall goal to hand over a society to the next generation in which the major environmental problems have been solved. The 16 environmental quality objectives represent the environmental dimension of sustainable development. When the environmental quality objectives were adopted in 1999, they replaced all previously adopted environmental targets within the area of environmental policy, and at the same time a whole new system for follow-up and defined responsibility was established. I believe this was a major change from the system we had before.
For each of the environmental quality objectives, we have one central government authority appointed as responsible. The responsibility includes proposing and implementing measures, monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on progress. On a regional level, the county administrative boards are responsible for defining and monitoring regional objectives that correspond to the national ones. They're also responsible for supporting the municipalities in their work to adapt local objectives.
To coordinate all the activities within the system, the government has established an environmental objectives council with representatives from the central government agencies, the county administrative boards, the municipalities, the business sector, and the NGOs. Every year the council reports back to the government on the progress toward attaining the objectives, and every fourth year it presents an in-depth evaluation, which may include proposals and adjustments to the interim targets and also to the system.
The system with 16 environmental quality objectives has been in place for seven years now and has become a self-evident part of the Swedish environmental policy. In April this year, a month ago, the council presented its second in-depth evaluation, and I will briefly go through the conclusions regarding the structure and the functioning of the system.
The process has led to stronger partnerships between agencies and also, to some extent, with the business sector and other stakeholders. Views of sustainability have developed, and environmental concerns have become better integrated into society. With regard to the follow-up progress, the division of roles among the agencies with lead responsibilities for the objectives has been developed and improved.
But of course there are many challenges for the future. I dare say this is, with the extent and the number of agencies involved, perhaps the largest collaborative undertaking we have in Sweden. For it to be effective, a high degree of coordination is required. Also, it is important to keep the momentum and the motivation in the system. Therefore strong political support is required, and there is also a continuous need for integrating environmental efforts into every sector of society. Sector responsibility is a key factor, as many environmental problems have to be addressed in the specific sector concerned.
Finally, the overall conclusion from the council is, though, that the efforts to attain the objectives have developed positively and enhanced the sum total of environmental action in Sweden.
I think I'll stop there and leave time for questions.
I was explaining the current situation with respect to the sustainable development strategies.
In December of 2006, on tabling the fourth round of sustainable development strategies, the specifically noted the commissioner's observation in 2005 that the failure to develop a federal sustainable development strategy “ will leave Canadians and parliamentarians without a clear idea of the government's overall plan for sustainable development, how it will get there, and what progress it has made.” The minister noted that the government agreed with the commissioner that more needs to be done to improve sustainable development reporting, and indicated that a range of options would be examined, including legislation, with a view to making further progress towards putting sustainability at the heart of the government's activities.
Environment Canada began a review at that time, with a view to developing options for improvements for the fifth round of strategies beginning in 2009. Subsequently, the commissioner also undertook a 10-year retrospective evaluation of the existing approach and recommended that the government undertake a thorough review by October 2008, a recommendation which the government accepted.
I should tell the committee that Environment Canada has worked collaboratively with the commissioner and his staff throughout this process. The review that is currently underway has several areas of focus, including examining options for a strengthened framework or overall strategy with clear goals and indicators. I am confident that this work will be completed by the October deadline set by the commissioner.
Turning now to Bill , I would like to note two issues that relate to the possible or the potential implementation of the bill as currently drafted—and this is based on my own examination of the bill.
First, the bill would require the development of a national, as opposed to a federal, sustainable development strategy. As the committee is aware, responsibility for the environment is not defined in the Constitution Act. Over time, a variety of mechanisms have been developed to facilitate federal-provincial cooperation in improving environmental quality in Canada, including a wide range of work done under the authority of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
As a practical matter, if we expect the provinces to be full and willing partners in the implementation of a national sustainable development strategy, it would, in my view, be important to engage them in its development, including the definition of its goals and its targets and in a discussion of which level of government would be held accountable for their achievement.
That brings me to my second point—namely, the goals and targets that are currently proposed in the draft bill. I think the commissioner has been very clear that defining measurable goals and developing performance indicators to track progress towards those goals is essential to any effective sustainable development strategy. Indeed, these are characteristics of effective, accountable public management.
As currently drafted, clause 8, for example, requires the establishment, within two years of the act coming into force, of short-, medium-, and long-term targets and an implementation strategy for meeting each item listed in column 2 of the bill's schedule.
Clause 10 subsequently requires the minister, following the tabling of the strategy in the House, to make regulations prescribing targets and caps for each item. I assume these regulations would be based on regulatory authorities in other existing statutes, as the bill does not provide any new regulatory authorities.
As I understand it, these two provisions together would therefore require the government, potentially, to prepare regulations for all 60 of the items listed in the schedule, including all 323 of the discrete substances covered by the national pollutant release inventory, and to do so within 30 days of the tabling of the national sustainable development strategy.
Regulation can be a very important instrument in improving environmental outcomes. However, if regulation is to be successfully implemented, it requires good science, close cost-benefit analysis, and careful consultation with those who would potentially be subject to or impacted by any new obligations.
Experience suggests that there would be major challenges in developing such a large number of regulations in such a short timeframe. Furthermore, regulations may not be the most appropriate instrument for addressing each of the many items listed in the schedule.
I look forward to your questions.