Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
We'll start the meeting, because we have quite a few amendments to look at.
I want to tell the committee that Paula Brand is at the back. She is the director general, sustainability directorate from the strategic policy branch of the Department of the Environment. She's here to guide us if we ever need any guidance.
I didn't know if you would mind, but I thought she might come up to the table with us, and we can always refer to her if we need to for any clarifications. Does anybody have a problem with that?
Thank you, Paula. I appreciate that. I know you're all settled back there nicely, but it's better to have you here, I think.
I'd like to introduce the legislative clerk, Olivier Champagne. He was here before, but he went away because we weren't ready to do it. He's here today to guide us through the process. There is a script prepared.
If you remember last time we did clause-by-clause consideration, we had an issue. We decided we wanted to do something, but we'd already gone past the point and we couldn't get back to it, so let's make sure that we to go carefully through this so we don't have any “oops” and we can't get back, because I think we need unanimous consent to do that, and that's always a bit of a challenge.
For that reason, I'm not going to rush it. I'm going to go carefully through it. We have quite a few clauses and some of them are embedded or supersede another clause, and there are amendments to things that have been brought by others.
Pursuant to the order of reference on Thursday, October 19, the committee now resumes the consideration of Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act.
In summary of the bill,
This enactment amends the Federal Sustainable Development Act to make decision making related to sustainable development more transparent and subject to accountability to Parliament.
That was the purpose of our previous report.
We'll get started. Does everybody have their copies open and everything ready? Okay.
We're going to start with clause 1.
The definitions precautionary principle and target in section 2 of the Federal Sustainable Development Act are repealed.
As the chair has been doing, she's been going through each piece of these. We need to decide if we're going to go through each piece of each clause or if we are going to vote on the whole clause. It's important, because as we proceed—for example, under “Principles”—I think we're going to want individual discussions.
When there's no amendment on the clause, we vote on the complete clause. When there are amendments on the clause, we open the clause and we consider the amendments as they amend the clause line by line.
The first amendment to amend clause 3 is LIB-1. Then we'll consider NDP-1 after LIB-1. After we consider all the amendments on clause 3, we will vote on clause 3 as amended or not.
must take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples.
She has said, then, that it acknowledges the application of the UN declaration in Canada and calls for the alignment of the laws of Canada to the UN declaration. She has said that she will now ensure that all the laws of the nation will be aligned with the UNDRIP. That's a very specific commitment.
The problem with the way that proposed paragraph 5(g) is written right now is that it's a very narrow and tiny aspect of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. When you go through that, particularly if you go to articles 18, 20, 23, 26, 29, 31, or 32, there are many provisions of the UNDRIP that relate to sustainable development, far beyond traditional knowledge and unique understanding of lands.
It was also recommended, as I recall, by the commissioner, and also by Scott Vaughan, the former commissioner, now the head of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, that there should be specific reference to the UNDRIP in this. That's why I'm recommending replacing paragraph (g), which includes only a very narrow aspect of what Canada has committed to.
If we're talking about his broad definition of sustainable development, we need to make sure, when we're speaking of indigenous rights, that we're embracing all of what Canada has said that it embraces. It did say it embraced it before, but it's going to put it into law, and the laws of the land should be consistent.
To me, the simplest way to do it is to reference the UNDRIP.
On the Liberal side, we do not support this particular amendment.
The reason is that if you go back to the new “Purpose” section, between lines 5 and 10, the addition that we just approved says it will respect “Canada's domestic and international obligations relating to sustainable development”.
We feel that the commitment to the UNDRIP is already covered by the statement in there, and it would be redundant to restate it in this clause. We would like to stay with the existing wording of proposed paragraph 5(g), because we feel that the new commitments we made are covered in the new purpose statement.
My understanding is—and I will defer as well to the legislative adviser—that when you go from the general to specific, you've already narrowed down your general. By the fact that you've said “international obligations”, it doesn't also say “commitments”, because I'm not sure that's an obligation, but certainly a commitment.... By then refining that down to just traditional knowledge, you have already narrowed what Canada is committed to under that.
With what you're arguing—if you're going to stand by that—you're going to have to take out all of clause 5, because it's the same argument. It's the precautionary principles: polluter pays, openness and transparency. We would have to remove all of them, if I follow your argument.
I'm curious as to Ms. Duncan's reference to the minister's commitment to implementing UNDRIP in Canada, because, quite frankly, this government has not shown an ability to actually follow through on the promises it makes. Until we actually see how the minister and her government plan to implement UNDRIP in Canada, we don't know what the consequences of it are.
As you know, our Conservative Party has highlighted serious concerns with the conflict between UNDRIP and Canada's current domestic law, including our constitutional requirements, especially the prior, free, and informed consent provisions. Those, we believe, could result in significant conflict, especially with our constitutional obligations, and will result in years of litigation with no prospect of certain outcomes.
To include this at this point in time I think is premature, especially if it's premised upon the fact that the Minister of Justice has made a promise, and we know how good those promises coming from this government are.
I think the points have been echoed already, but I'll reinforce that the application of the principles in the whole act is to consider all of the principles that you will ultimately approve inside the act in the development of strategies. To the extent to which those pieces are articulated here, I think we have scope to take into account any further implementation that the government will be making with respect to UNDRIP, which right now is still under review.
The government has said the nation-to-nation relationship is their top priority. This has advanced even since I put forward my proposed amendment. The government has now publicly declared to indigenous people that they intend to support and vote for Bill C-262, and that means they are going to put the UNDRIP into federal law. That doesn't say how they're going to apply it.
In the same way, just simply mentioning the polluter pays principle or the precautionary principle doesn't say how they will be applied. It's simply saying that we will give thought to them—we will give thought to this principle, we will give thought to that principle. It doesn't say that in every individual case, this is exactly how we're going to apply it.
I am raising this point because the justice minister had declared—and now in the House on the debate of the bill, government members have said—that they are going to be supporting this bill, and therefore it is critical that we make sure that our laws align with the UN declaration. This is the opportunity to do that.
I am recommending that it's the opportune moment to do it. When will this act be amended again? Is it “eventually”? It's up to the members here to vote, but I think the government has been clear that its position is that it will now put UNDRIP in law. No one knows, on the timing, which bill will come forward first, but I think the intent is clear there.
I just rest my case that this has been declared by the Government of Canada, and so I think it's appropriate that it be specific. I'm very concerned about the wording of proposed paragraph 5(g) because it immediately narrows any international obligations or commitments simply to “traditional knowledge” and “knowledge of lands and waters”, which I think is inappropriate.
Yes, I very much agree with Mr. Aldag's point. I think he is very correct on this.
At the beginning of proposed section 5, “the principles shall be considered” is a very declarative phrase, meaning “this will happen”, so I think Mr. Aldag's cautions are very much warranted.
In terms of proposed paragraph 5(g), again, this is not an amendment, but I do find it offensive that it's automatically assumed that only aboriginal people have traditional knowledge of the landscape. In the case of my ranchers and farmers, their knowledge of landscapes and ecology is as good as, or better than, than most people in this country. I can see where this principle will be in place, but I just want to make the point that other people have it.
In this amendment, I have made recommendations consistent with the testimony this committee heard in the advance review of the act and testimony we heard since the bill was tabled. All of these had been recommended by renowned experts, and by the committee, frankly.
I have inserted “(j) the principle of adherence to the United Nations Resolution A/RES/70/1”. I put in that language because that has been recommended by the commissioner as recently as our last meeting. She was concerned that we not be vague about what Canada has committed to in sustainable development principles. There are 17 current UN sustainable development goals.
I don't think it's appropriate to list the 17 goals in the bill. The best way to reflect that this is what Canada has said we are committed to is simply to mention the actual UN resolution that Canada has adhered to.
That was actually recommended by the committee. Recommendation 6 stated:
...take into account Canada’s international commitments to sustainable development, including those made under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development...
I have put in the actual wording of that agenda for sustainable development. That's what it's called.
Catherine Pearce from the World Future Council also supported that it reflect all 17 of the goals. Scott Vaughan has just written to us and reiterated that as well. The president of the Canadian Council of International Co-operation has also asked that the bill reflect the entirety.
I have other examples. The committee itself recommended that the full UN resolution be referenced in the bill. That's why I suggest it be added in.
The problem that I have with the United Nations resolution is that it's from 2015, and it's fairly prescriptive in terms of sustainability. The issue with it is that it could potentially limit the potential for sustainable development. It limits the ability to explore the strategies if you subscribe just to that particular resolution. That's the issue I have with it.
I would point out that recommendation 6 actually says, “Take into account Canada’s international commitments to sustainable development, including those made under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.” It's not as specific as Ms. Duncan is making it sound.
What we've done right now in the act is sufficient to reflect the very clear recommendation that comes out of our report.
Regarding the amendments from Ms. Duncan and the discussion of Mr. Gerretsen's amendments, I want to reiterate that when the Brundtland commission came through with its report, Gro Harlem Brundtland was very clear, and the committee, that sustainable development is a development concept, and what I see so far is that the development side of sustainable development is almost completely ignored.
The reason the Brundtland commission was established in the first place was that it was very clear that poverty causes environmental degradation. Wealth creation and economic growth, Brundtland saw, were key to environmental improvement. I don't see any of this reflected in any of these amendments.
If the member would like to read the 17 steps, the first one, which Canada has signed onto, is “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”. It then also promotes sustained, inclusive, sustainable economic growth and resilient infrastructure.
All I can say is that Canada has said they are committed to it. Just so I understand, we're now saying no, we're not necessarily committed to it.
We're in different levels here, okay? I was doing the clauses and the amendments that are brought forward for the clauses, and I was leaving it up to the person who was speaking to basically make it clear how they were presenting their amendments.
If you were doing each piece, I was not aware of that. My apologies.
The reason I have brought forward this amendment to line 17 on page 4 is that under “Mandate” right now, the provision for the advisory council is that they can only advise the minister on matters that she asks them to advise her on. I am of the view that it is too narrow, unless others of my amendments are accepted. This is the only provision in the entire act that makes any provision whatsoever for consultation.
If the consultation is going to be limited simply to this hand-picked advisory group that the minister appoints, it would be advisable to broaden the scope to add, “including matters referred to it”. That allows them to suggest to her, from time to time, matters that they want to pursue or that she might want to consider.
We took a look at other advisory committees. Under the Species at Risk Act, for example, it isn't limited to just what the minister asks them to advise her on; it's wide open. It just simply says, “advise the Minister on the administration of this act”. They don't have to wait for the minister to say, “I want you to look into this.” It's the same with the Agricultural and Rural Development Act and other acts in which advisory bodies are appointed.
I'm simply giving them a little wider ambit when they come together or they choose to come together.
It's a wide diversity of people. The minister bent over backwards to have more indigenous people. In fact, when the minister introduced the bill, she said, “Indigenous peoples, communities, provinces, territories, and Canadians expect to be heard when it comes to the economy and the environment” and that the government wants to maintain an ongoing conversation.
That's why I've suggested adding that in. Obviously, how much they can communicate will be limited, because the Conservatives are proposing limiting the reimbursement.
I thought it was very important to leave that open. She probably wasn't intentionally trying to limit them, but the way the wording is right now, they would not be mandated to consider anything except what the minister refers to them.
Yes. Maybe I could to draw to members' attention that this is an amendment in the bill. In the act, though, we are not changing anything that continues to require the ongoing consultations that do exist in the act.
I would draw folks' attention to subsections 9(3) and 9(4) of the act itself, which are not being touched in this bill, where it says that the minister shall undertake consultations and submit a draft strategy to the sustainable development advisory council, as you've said, the appropriate committee of each House of Parliament, and the public for review and comment. Subsection 9(4) also requires that she submit it to the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development for a period of not less than 120 days.
There is a four-month consultation period in the act that is untouched by the bill. Just to clarify for members, that part is staying the same. No change is made to that.
On this side, we don't support the amendment. Bill C-57 gives a clear mandate for the advisory committee. This would add cost. Also, as Ms. Brand said, within the act itself there's already fairly wide consultation that we're not amending.
Just to correct Ms. Duncan, this is not an effort to restrict the ability to collect reasonable expenses; it is simply making it clear that this particular council is not a paid council. It is compensated for its reasonable expenses.
I distinguish advisory councils from boards. As you know, there are other pieces of legislation that have come or are coming through the House that provide for compensation to be paid to duly established boards that have specific functions set out.
This council is advisory to the minister. Our amendment is simply clarifying that they are fully entitled to be compensated for all their reasonable out-of-pocket expenses for lodging, travel, and food. We totally get that, but beyond that, this is advisory to the minister and it should not be compensated.
We support this amendment. We would like to make a couple of comments, though. We don't know that it's necessary to include that it is subject to the Treasury Board guidelines. We would prefer language more in line with “in the course of their duties under this act”. This language is more consistent with other acts that are out there.
We are okay with it, but we would propose, if possible, to change the language so that it is more in line with what is representative in other acts.
I appreciate Mr. Bossio's point. The reason we've done it this way is that somebody has to define what is reasonable; someone has to sketch out or scope out what reasonable expenses are. That's the function of the Treasury Board. The Treasury Board applies its directives across government, so those directives would be consistent. That is why we have referenced the Treasury Board there.
I am not particularly opposed to what he is saying, because I think the part about reasonable expenses makes sense. What troubles me is this, and I've dealt with this for more than 45 years. When you have boards advising the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Natural Resources, and so forth, it is just understood that business advisory bodies receive a per diem. Why would the ones that indigenous people or environmentalists sit on be treated differently?
This is a pretty important advisory group. It really troubles me that we would think.... These are people who aren't going to have the resources to do the work. If you are going to provide constructive advice, you have to spend some time on it. What we are saying is that they should do it on their own time and money.
On a point of principle, I am very troubled with taking away any opportunity for a fair per diem. I just wanted to put that on the record. I don't think it's appropriate. These are the very people who probably don't have the resources to be doing that constructive work to give her good advice.
I'm fine with reasonable expenses, but it troubles me that we are taking out any possibility of a per diem. I think the Treasury Board does set reasonable per diems, as well.
The Chair: Next up, we have amendment LIB-2. We're on clause 6 now.
Amendments LIB-2 and NDP-5 are similar. They're distinct, but they replace the same part of the act, so we're just going to work on making sure as you move forward that if you do adopt LIB-2, then NDP-5 cannot be moved. Let's just make sure we understand how that goes.
Quite simply, this is about aligning the commissioner's role with the requirement in Bill C-57 that each target be measurable and that there be a time frame. It was made clear to us yesterday that the commissioner already has the intention of being able to review principles, but we wanted to make it abundantly clear that what was required was a demonstration of a measurable target and a time frame.
This allows us.... I'll reference the later motion, the NDP's fifth amendment. It stays squarely within the frame of the audit function, which is to have measurable targets, to be able to report on those, and to have a time frame which can be reported upon, but in engaging in a sort of future-oriented, policy-oriented analysis. It brings the commissioner further outside that audit sphere. My thinking is that it is squarely within the commissioner's function to be looking at time-bound and measurable measures.
We support the amendment. Whenever there are very clear, measurable targets established and clear time frames, as long as those time frames are reasonable, I think it's good for government and it's good for those who are holding government accountable.
Right now, there is no subclause in clause 6 of the bill. Because the amendment is adding new subclause 6(2), they need to add this new subclause 6(1) to the first part of clause 6 to make the numbering correct. The substance of the amendment is under (b), while (a) is a formality.
It's not exactly the same. What I wanted to offer is that you have some more things in yours that you might want to do in a subamendment, which I'm open to right now. In yours, NDP-5, there are some things that are not in here. If you want to do a subamendment, now's the time to do it.
She can. It's a bit complicated, because she did something that is a little into what we've done. If we do ours, she will not get to do hers, so I want to see if she wants to do a subamendment at this point.
—a timeline. It specifies a timeline, which was always there.
I've added in the (b) and (c). These are what some of the legal experts recommended to the committee, and the committee then recommended those three things to the minister.
Having heard from the commissioner again, she was very clear that what she's troubled by is that there need to be more specifics of what has to be done in these strategies—both the overall one and the individual departments and entities—in order to evaluate, and also for the officials to evaluate, that there is compliance with the act and they can sign off.
The (b) and (c) that I added follow from what was called for by people who testified at the committee earlier, when I wasn't a member of it, and what the commissioner and others have called for. Part (b) speaks to whether the strategies are likely to achieve the targets. In other words, have they been written in a way...are they reasonable and have the principles been considered?
She clearly asked for that to provide better guidance, in a way, because I think she's being very kind in saying that maybe they just don't understand what the act says or that some come up with strategies, but they're not really telling how they meet the principles and whether they adequately meet the targets. That had been recommended, and we had recommended that it be in the bill.
Clearly the Liberal amendment speaks to measurables and time frame, and I have that in (a), so I have no problem with that whatsoever. I just thought that breaking it down that way is a little easier.
It's up to the other members, if they still stand by what they recommended to the minister when they did the committee review. I haven't varied from that at all. That was what the committee had recommended.
I'm just curious about Mr. Amos's amendment and why he wants to delete subsection 9(2). Subsection 9(2) talks about setting out federal sustainable development goals and targets, and subsection 9(4)—which I agree with—says this is how we will report on those targets.
I don't think there's a need to eliminate subsection 9(2), because it says that we set the targets out and subsection 9(4) says this is how we'll report on the targets.
I said we're going to give her a chance to bring a subamendment, and she said, “Let's just have a discussion on it to see where it goes”, and then she might bring a subamendment that we would then vote on to amend what the Liberals are trying to do.
Quite frankly, the more direction the minister provides the commissioner, the less likely it is that we're going to find ourselves in a situation of the commissioner coming back with these fall reports that are not that flattering to the government, because there will have been more consultation between the minister and the commissioner and everybody will know what the expectations are.
I'm seeing the Liberals have taken out subsection 9(1). It probably makes sense, because why reference the precautionary principle again? We're just singling out one of the many principles that were at the front, so it probably does make sense to take that one away. However, subsection 9(2), which they want to take out, they didn't then put back in again. Subsection 9(2), which they want to take away, sets out the goals and targets and identifies responsibility. My amendment puts that all together in one clause. If they want to take out subsection 9(2), they need to put it back in. They've said “measurable and include timelines”, but they've taken out the targets, as I recall.
Right now in the act, section 9 has four subsections. The bill currently replaces subsections 9(1) and 9(2). The amendment we are considering tries to replace subsection 9(4), which was initially untouched by the bill.
Okay, can you just hold off? We have different amendments overlapping other amendments. Let's just do the one amendment that we're doing. I'm making it confusing.
We're bringing forward NDP-5 because if we approve LIB-2, you will then not get a chance to do what you're trying to do. I'm just trying to be decent and give you a chance to bring forward a subamendment, if you should desire it. I've jumped forward to your NDP-5, okay?
I know, but that's what I'm saying. I think it's more precise. It's clear in subsections (1), (2), and (3) what has to be done. I'm having a hard time seeing that what they've drafted would make it simple for entities to figure out what they're supposed to do and how the commissioner is going to hold them accountable to show that they considered those three things.
Ours does not include that. Our position—and the commissioner made this clear yesterday—is that she can and will look at principles. We don't need to write that into the legislation. I don't mean “she”, but that the commissioner as an institution will have that opportunity.
I'm looking at your draft right now. I'm pointing out the reasons we're not in favour of the proposals here in paragraphs 9(4)(b) and 9(4)(c) around the likelihood of adequacy, which is (b), and the adequate consideration of principles, which is your (c). The reason we're not in favour of the first one is that it's just way too broad, and it really creates an unwieldy role for the commissioner.
As regards the consideration of the principles, we heard from her on this yesterday. She doesn't require that to be built into legislation. The commissioner will be able to do that anyway.
The key thing here is to really focus the role of the commissioner, and that's why we're focusing on timeboundness and measurability.
We heard the commissioner totally differently. Let me just give you the last example. She said, okay, you've got “polluter pays” as a principle. She said that's too vague. She wants the entity to tell her how they've taken into consideration that principle of polluter pays, and that's why that is there. That is why David Boyd recommended it. That's why she's recommended it, but if you don't want it there, that's fine. You've got the majority.
Again, my concern was the duty to consult the public. Ms. Brand has pointed out to me that there is some provision for that, but I stand by my amendment.
The reason I stand by my amendment is my amendment is saying that up front, when the minister is obligated to develop a federal sustainable development strategy, she shall do that “in consultation with the public”. As the act stands right now, after the fact, after she's already drafted it, they get a chance to look at it. Okay?
The reason I'm raising that is...while nobody knows what will happen with NAFTA, the environmental side agreement to NAFTA actually requires Canada to provide advance notice and opportunity for comment in the process of drafting any law, policy, procedure, etc.
I just think it should be right up front. This government has been very clear that they believe.... We have a principle of collaboration. There's no principle of public participation in there. I can only presume the principle of collaboration means to work with people in the development of the policy.
My preference is that the commitment to consult the public in developing the policy would be right up front. Without that, the only people on an ongoing basis who are at the front would be potentially the advisory council, if she asks them for advice.
I'm kind of old-fashioned. I believe in the concept of ministerial responsibility. Ministers have to have the discretion, no matter who's in government, to make decisions that are ultimately answerable to the public, and this particular one is included in this act.
There will be endless litigation, because when is there enough consultation? Was it broad enough? Who is “the public”? The word “shall” is bad enough in and of itself.
Activists usually forget that ministers and the prime minister and all of us members of Parliament are answerable to the public at all times for everything that we say and do. To have such a prescriptive clause in the act will make it more unwieldy than it even is now.
Wait, wait, back me up a bit. Does anybody have anything for clause 7? We didn't get anything earlier. I'm assuming there isn't anything. I want to make sure there isn't something before someone yells at me for not giving them a chance to bring it forward.
Shall clause 7 carry?
(Clause 7 agreed to)
(On clause 8)
The Chair: We are now at amendment NDP-6 for clause 8.
Oh, sorry. We have a couple of other things that we have to be mindful of. If NDP-6 is adopted, then NDP-7 and LIB-3 cannot be moved. There's a line conflict.
Whichever came in first gets to be done first. You have to make sure you're looking at NDP-7, and look at LIB-3.
The reason I had said that it should say “in relation to the environmental, social and economic impacts of their policies and operations” is that this was the language used in the act. I agree with the preference for “sustainable development”. I was just trying to be consistent with legislative drafting.
If everybody's amenable to just simply start.... There are other places in this act that we probably should have been changing to that. The problem is this act goes up and down and back and forth. Sometimes it talks about environmental and socio-economic impacts and sometimes it talks about sustainable development. It really would be preferable if, throughout the whole thing, it just simply references sustainable development.
I used that other phrasing because that was what was used in the act. I have no problem if everybody agrees that at least we start by replacing that phrase, which frankly doesn't even totally encompass the UN goals. I'm fine with that part, so I would amend mine right off the bat to say “in relation to the sustainable development impact.” Okay?
I'm fine with that, if everybody agrees. It's just that there are other places in the act where it really should be revisited. We should start being consistent.
What I have added in here is “policies”. Right now the wording only applies to operations. It doesn't apply to policies, which I find rather odd, so I simply said that Treasury Board may establish policies and directives applicable to one or more of the designated entities in relation to the sustainable development impacts of their policies and operations.
That's the first part, if we agree to the change.
The second part is that somewhere along the line, the government has chosen to take out the part about directives related to performance-based contracts. I simply added that back in so that the Treasury Board could establish policies and directives related to the impact on sustainable development of policies and operations, as well as policies and directives for performance-based contracts.
I want to note that section 12 of the current act, which refers to performance-based contracts, does not pertain to performance agreements of senior officials but to procurement. As a result, it duplicates the existing Treasury Board and Public Services and Procurement Canada's policies, and Bill C-57 proposes to delete it for this reason. It's because it's referring strictly to procurement. It's not referring to anything above and beyond that.
Our revision, replacing “environment” with “sustainable development”, makes it more consistent with the revised purpose.
Performance-based contracts with the Government of Canada shall include provisions for meeting the applicable targets referred to in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and the Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies.
Section 12 of the current act has similar language, and the application of it for the last eight years has been related to performance-based contracts, which have been deemed to be contracts we sign for procuring services, buying goods, and those sorts of things. They are not in fact related to what you think of as deputy ministers' performance agreements.
There is a big distinction. The application of section 12 as it now stands in the act relates to procurement. It does not relate to performance-based agreements with senior executives.
How the government interprets what the bill says is different from what the act says. My amendment is simply consistent with section 12 of the act. It simply empowers Treasury Board to also provide guidelines and directives on how section 12 is to be applied.
I want to speak in support of Mr. Bossio's amendment, because we are considering amendments LIB-3 and NDP-7 together. We have a choice between complexity and some confusion on the one hand and simplicity on the other.
Quite frankly, what persuaded us to support this legislation in the first place was that it was an incremental movement towards recognizing what sustainable development is. It's not just environment; it's also the social elements of living in our society, as well as the economic imperatives that have to be taken into account. Mr. Bossio has reflected that more accurately with his amendment.
Once again, Chair, the amendment I proposed does that. It gives Treasury Board the latitude it needs to be able to look at all areas of sustainable development across all the areas that are under its mandate right now. I don't understand why we have to complicate it when we already have it simplified.
The two amendments mean the same thing and we want to keep things as simple as possible. Mr. Bossio's amendment does not cancel out yours. The two amendments are saying the same thing. Mr. Bossio's wording is shorter, but it does not take away from what you said.
We are all pulling in the same direction. Mr. Bossio's amendment is in line with the objective that all the members of the committee want.
Linda was suggesting that we take out “environmental, social and economic” and just make it “sustainable development impacts of their policies and operations”. She made the change to try to incorporate that.
During this committee's review of the act, well before the bill was tabled, we heard from a wide array of experts, including the current commissioner and the former commissioner, who is now head of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. I think they heard from some international experts as well. They certainly heard about laws in other jurisdictions. The strong recommendation was made across the board that a more senior authority should be overseeing this.
I could not submit an amendment to replace the responsibility vested in an official within the Department of the Environment because I can't add a part that hasn't been amended. In lieu of that, however, I am making a further amendment to clause 8 of this bill, adding that the “Queen's Privy Council”—in other words, the PCO—also be empowered to issue policies and directives. That was a recommendation by this committee.
In this amendment, I simply put in a time period. I am totally open, however, to a different time period.
When the commissioner appeared before us on Tuesday, she was very clear that she is struggling with the number of entities she has to review. All of them come in at different times and are prepared in different ways with different frameworks. She said it would be immeasurably helpful to her if all entities had to submit their strategies on the same date.
Right now they can submit them any time within a year, so I am proposing that we amend that clause to give a specified time after the FSDS is tabled in Parliament for when the entities have to submit their strategies. I am totally open to any reasonable time period one might want to put in. I put in six months, but it could be 12 months or eight months. It's whatever people think is reasonable.
She was clear in her testimony that she would like to have the law changed to require all entities to submit their strategies by the same date so that she could compare them.
I'm not sure that your amendment actually does what you're talking about. I hear you, but what I hear is not what it meant to me when I read it. There's a way to do it differently, but that isn't what this says.
Maybe I could give the committee some context for how the process has run, and that may help you in your discussion and debate.
Typically the strategy is tabled, and then departments have had that year. We have only once, in any of those cycles, taken that full year to do that. We've always done it, and we've embedded the planning and reporting into the expenditure management system.
By way of example, if the strategy was tabled in November, departments typically in their RPP/DPR process would have tabled their departmental strategies with their RPP at the same time. We have about a 90-plus per cent compliance of departments in doing that. That usually takes place in March, following the tabling of the strategies.
This is the first year that we took the full year to do it. We had 100% compliance of departments, all doing it in the same week of October 2, 2017. It took a year because in large part the strategy was significantly different from what it had been in the past, so we gave departments a little more time to do that.
At the same time, working with Treasury Board, we provide guidance on the forms and structure. We have a common set of elements that departments are given advice on to complete those elements. In the past, they have been actual supplemental tables in the RPP.
For context, the reality and the practicality of what's been happening is that the departments do in fact do it en masse. Over 90% do it all at the same time, either within a three-month period following, or within the one year, but they're all doing it at the same time against a common set of guidelines. Obviously any minister has the ability to write any strategy and take any form he or she wants it to take, but we have those pieces.
Madam Chair, if I remember correctly what the commissioner said, there had to be a specific time. However, Ms. Duncan's amendment proposes a six-month period. So we are not achieving the commissioner's target. If memory serves, the commissioner talked about a specific time, not a six-month period.
The proposed amendment therefore does not help us achieve the objective of a specific time.
I think we know what we're doing. I think we understand there's a difference of opinion between the commissioner and the department. There's also a difference of opinion in what we thought we heard the commissioner wanted.
We're going to vote on NDP-9.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
In terms of the Queen's Privy Council, presumably, I don't know to whom we assign the cabinet directive. This is simply saying that they have to also adhere to the cabinet directive. It's being specific.
The commissioner has testified that her preference would be that this statute be brought together with the provisions of the cabinet directive, which gives much more detail to entities about the type of information they need to consider and provide. That's why that is in there. It simply provides the link that the commissioner requested.
I have simply added in that when designated entities are preparing their independent sustainable development strategies, they must take into account the results of public consultations.
I believe there is nowhere else in this statute that requires public consultation of the individual entity. There is a provision for the minister to consult on the FSDS after she has drafted it, but there is no requirement whatsoever that the entities must talk to the public. When I say “public”, that includes cities, business, communities, first nations, whatever. It's pretty important that there be a requirement for some degree of public consultation in developing the sustainable development strategies for government entitles.
Given what we'd already discussed under amendment NDP-4, under subsections 9(3) and 9(4) of the act the minister consults with the public. We've already discussed consultation under the act. Subsection 9(3), “Consultation: first draft”, says:
The Minister shall submit a draft of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy to the Sustainable Development Advisory Council, the appropriate committee of each House of Parliament and the public for review and comment, for which the Minister shall allow a period of not less than 120 days.
Then subsection of 9(4) of the act says:
The Minister shall at the same time submit the draft of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy to the Commissioner for review and comment as to whether the targets and implementation strategies can be assessed, for which the Minister shall allow a period of not less than 120 days.
Under this proviso, we'd like to do a subamendment to Ms. Duncan's amendment. Instead of saying in a proposed subparagraph 11(1)(a)(v), “takes into account results of public consultations”, we'd like to say, “considers results of public consultations under this act”.
I apologize. The text that I actually want to put in takes into account comments made under the subsections. I apologize. I'd just changed this earlier and forgot that I was operating off two different documents.
Instead of saying “takes into account results of public consultations”, we want to say “takes into account comments made under subsections 9(3) or 9(4); and”.
If I can speak to that, they are not identical. The one that we dealt with before was the obligation of the Minister of the Environment to consult the public when she is developing the federal sustainable development strategy. This section, section 11, deals with all the entities that develop their individual strategies. This hasn't anything to do with the FSDS. This is what each of the entities must do in developing their individual sustainable development strategies.
I have added that when they develop those strategies, those entities must also take into consideration public consultation.
It has nothing to do with the FSDS process; it's developing their individual entity strategies on how they're going to deliver their mandates.
I can describe it in terms of what we do right now.
During that four-month consultation period, we're commenting on the draft strategy, which includes the contribution of all of the entities under the act. It includes any of the goals and proposals put forward. It does include the dimensions of all of the departments under the strategy.
By way of process, we receive comments, we undertake the consultations, and we work with departments to identify key stakeholders in their constituency area. We undertake the consultations. That feedback is centralized with us, but we distribute it to all of the departments. Then, when we—the collaborative “we”—draft the final strategy for consideration, all of those departments have had an opportunity to weigh in and demonstrate how they will address concerns that are raised on topics that are very vast in terms of the range of issues that we receive comments on. That's what currently happens right now.
There is already a process for consultations in place, and they are taken into account. That renders the proposed amendment moot, because we already have that process taking place, whether it's stipulated legislatively or not. The department and the agencies and all those who are covered under these requirements are in fact doing consultations and taking those consultations into account.
Why are we introducing something that is already happening? We're trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist.
Let's go by what the law says. With all due respect to Ms. Brand, section 11 of the act says that within one year after the final Federal Sustainable Development Strategy is tabled in the House, the designated entities must develop their individual strategies. They're not developed before the FSDS is tabled; they are developed after the final FSDS is tabled in the House.
The process of developing the individual entity strategies happens after the FSDS is set in stone. That's when the details of.... The fisheries department has different people they might want to confer with. Agriculture has different kinds of interests that they want to confer with.
Anyway, I rest my case, but that is the process by law.
I think Ms. Brand would agree that the way the process is right now the minister, through a sausage-making process, develops a federal sustainable development strategy, and then designated entities go through their own process.
Again, this is as per the testimony this week by the commissioner. It reiterates the concern she expressed and the concern that was expressed by almost every witness before this committee before the bill was tabled, and as per the recommendation of this committee before the bill was tabled, that there be more senior authority.
Why are people recommending that? They are recommending it because there is an abject failure in providing these reports properly.
For the last 10 or 12 years, the commissioner reports every time that we have an absolutely terrible record of entities delivering on their responsibilities. She had recommended, and this committee had recommended, that one of the solutions may be to have a more senior level sign-off, a higher-level accountability, to say, “Okay, have you looked at this, have you looked at that, before I submit this to the commissioner?”
That's what this says: to “obtain the appropriate Minister's signed approval” before submitting that sustainable development strategy.
Again, this is adding in very specifically the directives of the cabinet.
I am adding in the Governor in Council to establish or issue applicable regulations.
I'm adding in that they have to consider not only the Treasury Board, which is a new provision in that act, but also any policies or directives of Governor in Council—in other words, the cabinet—and any applicable regulations. It's interesting that the act provides for regulations. To my knowledge, none have ever been issued. It's important to provide that.
You also have to be consistent with the regulations. That's what I'm adding in: it's that any of those strategies be consistent with the policies and directives of the Treasury Board, the cabinet, and any applicable regulations.
Okay. This would amend proposed section 12.1 of the act.
This is again a recommendation of the committee, recommendation number 4. This amendment was recommended by the commissioner when she testified during your study of the bill. She recommended it again on Tuesday, and this committee also recommended very specifically that the draft federal sustainable development strategy be submitted to all appropriate committees of each House of Parliament and that a federal sustainable development strategy tabled in the House be deemed to be referred to all relevant committees.
I don't know why we bother doing studies. If we vote it down, this will be another recommendation of the committee that they now don't agree with.
Just to be clear, her amendment has “sustainable development or to any other committee that that House may designate for the purposes of the section.” You're suggesting your amendment would stop at “sustainable development”.
Madam Chair, I'm here because of the motion passed by this committee. Just so you have an insight into how onerous and manipulative and unacceptable it is that every single committee passed identical motions that only give me opportunity at clause-by-clause study deny me the opportunities I would otherwise have at report stage, I am simultaneously in clause-by-clause study for Bill C-57 and down the hall at Bill C-55 on the Oceans Act, so I may not be able to stay longer than just to present my amendments.
I know you all passed that motion a long time ago, but it does have an impact, and I'm sorry I can only run in and run out again, because these bills are being studied at the same time.
Fortunately, they're in the same building. On this amendment that I propose, I really think this committee has done terrific work. I go back to the committee's report on federal sustainability for future generations and note that in the committee's report, there was a recommendation that performance-based contracts should meet standards.
To clarify, I'll quote the committee report, which said that in respect of all targets for which a department or agency is responsible, revising the provision to ensure performance-based contracts meet sustainable development goals is “an effective means of holding people to account for meeting targets”.
The Green Party amendment PV-1 proposes to insert after what we now have on page 7 of Bill C-57, at proposed section 12.3:
“12.4 Performance-based contracts with the Government of Canada shall include provisions for meeting all of the targets referred to in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and the Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies.”
The committee has already studied this and determined that it makes sense. I hope to have support for this amendment to strengthen Bill C-57 by giving performance-based contracts with the Government of Canada the mandate to meet targets.
I mean that when the Government of Canada is contracting with those outside of the Government of Canada to meet certain goals, that within those performance-based contracts with external parties, the department's sustainable development goals and the federal sustainable development strategy be included in the contract as goals for the contractor performing that performance-based contract.
What I'm adding is that we include performance-based contracts around procurement into this act, because with what we have now, the Governor in Council may make regulations for the strategy, and the department heads for targets, but unless you amended it while I was in the meeting for Bill C-55—
The question is whether it's narrowly applied to only greening-of-government targets rather than having it apply to all targets within the federal sustainable development strategy. That's what I'm aiming for.
I don't want to speak for my colleagues at Public Services and Procurement Canada with respect to how the current policy in place now, which is the policy on green procurement, would incorporate this dimension and any other policy procurement review that's going on right now within the government around meeting other associated social economic objectives using procurement as the tool. That process is already in place within the Public Services and Procurement domain.
The act has performance-based contracts, and the only difference here is that we have in the act “applicable” targets referred to in federal sustainable development strategy, so it may not apply to all targets. It's applicable targets. What has just been put forward is that we should say “all” of the targets.