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Results: 1 - 15 of 152
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-06-20 11:48 [p.7221]
Mr. Speaker, speaking of what is a billion dollars, here is a question about where is a billion dollars?
Yesterday, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages announced an official languages plan, but the $1.1 billion envelope was not included in the latest budget. This is troubling, because if the money has to come from somewhere else, other programs might suffer.
Can the minister tell us where the money for her official languages action plan will come from?
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-06-20 11:49 [p.7221]
Mr. Speaker, what is a billion dollars? Where is a billion dollars?
The heritage minister also has reintroduced a watered-down version of the court challenges program that blatantly excludes minorities that are not linguistic minorities. Women are excluded. Gays are excluded. The disabled are excluded. Visible minorities are excluded. This is nothing less than discrimination.
Why is the government refusing to allow all minorities to use the program and defend their rights?
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-06-19 14:15 [p.7169]
Mr. Speaker, as you can see, I have not quite gone yet.
That is because now, today, more than ever, Canadians have a clear choice concerning the environment.
The Liberal green shift will offer big tax cuts to all Canadians: taxes down. The Conservative plan offers dead ducks on tailing ponds
While our plan offers an improved child care tax credit to help families, the Conservatives are completely abandoning those most in need.
While our plan offers credits to seniors and citizens living in rural areas, the Conservative plan offers unregulated hot air emissions from the environment minister.
While our plan will not—I repeat, will not—increase the tax on gas at the pump, the Conservatives are allowing gas prices to continually rise and—
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-06-17 15:10 [p.7071]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order which really is not a point of order. For this, I beg your forgiveness, Mr. Speaker, but only after I have finished.
The two toughest decisions in politics are when to get in and when to get out. The tougher decision is when to get out, because in politics, one never knows what lies around the next corner, what new catastrophe or opportunity may suddenly appear just in time to change one's life forever. If one just stays on a little longer, who knows what may happen. Nowhere is this truer than in a minority Parliament. So, the temptation to stay on is great, just to see what happens next. In this regard, I am reminded of the British army officer whose men would follow him anywhere, just out of sheer curiosity; not, of course, that this reflects in any way on the management style of my current leader or his predecessors.
How extraordinarily privileged we are as members of this House, members of Parliament, to be part of great events as they unfold, witnesses to history, as we were last week when the residential schools apology was delivered, or as we were earlier in this Parliament when we were present for that remarkable debate on the question of a Quebec nation within a unified Canada.
Here in this place the stakes are high, the issues really matter, and we all feel we can make a difference. That is why we are drawn to politics. It is exciting, worthwhile and unpredictable. It is also a bit like playing the horses: addictive, potentially dangerous to one's health, and tough on family life.
I have enjoyed my fourteen and a half years here. I have learned a lot, made good friends in all parties and, I hope, in some small way worked with all of them to make Canada a better place.
In Arnold Bennett's novel, The Card, the countess asks of a rising young politician, “But with what great cause is he associated?” This is the question that each of us must ask of ourselves; not, “Am I great?” but “Is my cause great?”. Because the cause is always greater than we are, and each of us can take a greater pride in the causes we have advanced as members of Parliament than the formal titles we have achieved.
But none of us can serve our causes, or Canada, without the loyal support of the people who work with us and who make us look good. Over the course of fourteen years, I have been lucky enough to have worked with many talented and dedicated people and also, I would add, with many splendid parliamentary interns. I cannot name them all, but I want to make special mention of two long-time associates and friends, Kathy Kocsis and Andrew Bevan, and the current crew in Ottawa and Toronto, Catherine, Bo, Delaney, Jonathan, Steve and Angela.
As I look around this chamber, I also want to acknowledge my friends in all parties, in the Liberal caucus, the whole Liberal team on the Hill, my leader, the officers of this House and all the people who serve in it. I also want to recognize all the support staff of the committees and the Library of Parliament, all the men and women on the Hill who protect us, clean for us, serve us in the cafeterias and generally make our lives agreeable, and you, Mr. Speaker, for struggling so valiantly to create an atmosphere of non-partisan civility and camaraderie in a time of trouble.
I want to make special mention of the pages who buzz around so efficiently and have learned cheerfully how to interpret the eccentric demands of the member for Don Valley West, which he conveys by a unique form of sign language. Now here is a little lesson for the rest of you. Ready? Watch carefully: glass, ice, lemon, and make that fizzy water. What a legacy.
I also want to thank the people of Don Valley West, who have supported me through five elections; my constituency association and its long-serving president, Dennis O'Leary; Pam Gutteridge, my first and last campaign manager; and above all, my family, especially my wife, Trish, helpmate indeed, and my son, Ian, who made it all possible and who have been my greatest supporters. I should also mention that my son, Ian, graduated today from grade eight, just as I am graduating from grade fourteen and a half.
In politics it is always important to pick our moment to leave before the moment picks us.
And what a moment. I am lucky to have a new career as the headmaster of the Toronto French School. I am returning to my roots, to the education of young people and, even better, to the French language.
As I say goodbye, I leave with my idealism intact. I leave with a certain regret, but also with satisfaction and pride at having been one of the select few, a member of the House of Commons of Canada, one of you, one of us.
Thank you, merci, au revoir, goodbye.
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-06-13 13:34 [p.6954]
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-474, in Clause 15.1, be amended by replacing line 19 on page 6 with the following:
“into force of section 18.1 of this Act, remain in”
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-474, in Clause 16, be amended
(a) by replacing line 33 on page 6 with the following:
“11(3) of the Federal Sustainable Develop-”
(b) by replacing line 1 on page 7 with the following:
“(c) any agency set out in Schedule 2 to”
Motion No. 4
That Bill C-474, in Clause 18, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 14 on page 8 with the following:
“justesse des renseignements qu'il contient”
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-06-13 13:41 [p.6955]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the Chair for his kind remarks and his friendship over the years, which will continue even after I leave this place.
I would like to express my gratitude to all the parties in the House for their support and cooperation in bringing Bill C-474, the federal sustainable development bill, to this stage and providing very helpful suggestions for its amendment.
I would also like to acknowledge those who have contributed to the drafting and revision of Bill C-474. The bill reflects, to a large degree, the work of the David Suzuki Foundation with input from the Natural Step Canada group. It was developed and amended through extensive consultation with the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
The person who has worked harder on this bill than anyone, who has negotiated with all the parties and legislative council and environmental groups, is one of our own parliamentary interns, Delaney Greig, for whom I predict a great future. She was ably assisted by my legislative assistant, Bo Romaguer.
The original reason I chose to put forward Bill C-474 was a universal dissatisfaction with the existing departmental sustainable development strategies process. The system of departmental reports has received criticism from both Conservative and Liberal ministers of the environment, from former commissioners of the environment and sustainable development and from the green ribbon panel that was established last year to review sustainable development strategies process.
Specifically, there has been broad recognition of the need for greater accountability in the sustainable development strategy process and for a coherent, overarching federal strategy developed at the heart of the government.
These are exactly the changes made under the federal sustainable development bill.
Bill C-474 calls for the development of a federal sustainable development strategy containing goals and targets developed by the Minister of the Environment with cabinet oversight. The federal strategy will be examined by Parliament, an advisory council and the commissioner prior to its coming into force. A progress review will occur every three years through a report to Parliament and a corresponding assessment report from the commissioner. Further, departmental sustainable development strategies will be required to comply with and contribute to the federal strategy and will also be assessed.
Moving through committee, a number of amendments have been made to Bill C-474 to eliminate the need for a royal recommendation, as the Speaker has earlier recognized, and to draw in features that reflect the interests of all the parties represented here today.
As the government was contemplating changes to the sustainable development strategy process, it considered the route laid out in Bill C-474. Bringing together our thinking and theirs, we have amended Bill C-474 to satisfy all four parties. We have all had to put a little water in our wine.
Working on Bill C-474 has been a constructive and collaborative experience. The bill before us in the House today is a tribute to the way in which parties can work together in this place, in committee, in a minority Parliament, where committees are not always so collegial.
In particular, recognition is due to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, who has shown leadership by bringing forward constructive amendments and building support for Bill C-474 among his colleagues, in committee and in the House. I also thank him for his very kind words about my retirement.
I also want to acknowledge the support of the members of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP.
Given the atmosphere of cooperation around our efforts to improve sustainable development planning in the federal government, we look forward to ending debate in the House of Commons on Bill C-474 today. Although this will lack the theatrics of a vote, I have elected to request that the House adopt today Bill C-474 with the required technical amendments that have been moved so that it may progress to the Senate before we adjourn for the summer.
I must express to all members my appreciation for their assistance in enabling this bill to progress to this point and, if it is the will of the chamber, sending it on to the Senate. Bill C-474 will make sustainable development a priority at the heart of Canada's government for our future generations. I am honoured to have been able to shepherd this legislation through the House of Commons as my last act as a member of Parliament.
It is in the spirit of cooperation which has characterized the debate on this bill, and having consulted with the government and opposition parties, I would like to ask for unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, at the end of today's debate on Bill C-474, standing in my name on the Order Paper, all report stage motions be deemed adopted; the Bill be deemed concurred in at report stage with further amendments; and be deemed read a third time and passed.
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-05-30 11:10 [p.6351]
Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, Canadians from coast to coast will be celebrating Canadian Forces Day, an occasion that allows all of us to pay tribute to the bravery and courage of the men and women serving in the Canadian Forces.
From Haiti to the Sudan, from the Congo to the Golan Heights, and of course, in Afghanistan, our soldiers continue to provide peace and security in some of the most troubled regions of the world.
The importance of these celebrations can never be overstated as we hold close in our thoughts and prayers those who wear our uniform: our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our friends, who fight for the freedom of the Afghan people and who stand on guard for the security of our own proud nation.
I ask all members of the House to join with me today in celebrating Canadian Forces Day this Sunday, and to thank those who have worn and continue to wear the uniform of the Canadian army, air force and navy. Their sacrifices for our freedoms are their enduring legacy.
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-05-06 13:35 [p.5487]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to support Bill C-5 in its unamended form, particularly in light of the discussion which I have been privileged to hear today in the House.
I want to pick up on the points that were raised by my colleague from Mississauga—Erindale, which had to do with a number of fundamental questions about the future of nuclear energy in this country which underlie this bill. I also want to echo what my colleague from Western Arctic said, that as we think about that future, we have to think about not only the interests of the nuclear industry, but also the interests of the whole population of Canada.
First, at the deepest level, this bill raises a number of very profound questions about the future of nuclear power in Canada, about the future of AECL itself, about the future of the nuclear regulator, about the future of Canada's own Candu reactor, the future of evolving nuclear technologies around the world, competitive technologies to the Candu reactor and, indeed, the future of nuclear power around the world.
It is evident that the great change which has occurred in the debate about nuclear power has been driven by climate change. This has radically altered the terms of debate. It has radically altered the way in which we think about these issues.
I can say that as a long-time environmentalist, I have been one of those who, over the years, has had reservations about the nuclear industry. I have moved from that position to one of being agnostic, but today, as I weigh the odds, the chances and the dangers, I now find myself on the side of a nuclear future for Canada. I believe that inevitably, nuclear power will be an increasingly important component of our national energy portfolio in the years to come.
Even if we funded and built no new nuclear plants in this country, Canada would have been having a nuclear future for a long time anyway. If we consider the very lights in this chamber, two out of every five lights in this chamber and in Ontario are powered by nuclear power. Forty per cent of all the power currently generated comes from nuclear generators.
Their importance becomes all the more compelling, because we know what the future of coal fired energy plants is in this province. That is to say they will be eliminated, which puts an even greater burden on nuclear power certainly in this part of the world for the future. There is no existing alternative source of energy on the scope and scale of nuclear power which can replace coal fired generating plants.
Second, the climate change argument puts us in a world in which we have to balance off risks. That is what we are here for. We are here to make choices. To govern is to choose.
On the one hand, a world in which carbon dioxide continues to increase exponentially along with other greenhouse gases puts us into a perilous future when we would reach an increase in world temperature of plus 2°C. This would take us to a place we have not been in many generations and millions of years, versus the well-known risks of nuclear power, which have been nuclear accidents, terrorist threats or how we dispose of nuclear waste. These are not trivial matters, but we have to choose. We have to decide what is the greatest peril and can we manage the risks on the other side.
Bill C-5 itself and the debate about its amendments is about risk management, about somewhere between zero liability and limitless liability. The committee came down and decided on $650 million, increasing it from $75 million. That is about risk management.
The problem with climate change is that this is not a manageable risk if we continue not to do anything about it. That is the challenge, that we are in a potentially runaway situation. Nuclear power must be part of the answer to that.
The third point I would like to make is that around the world we do see a renaissance of nuclear power. There are currently operating in the world 439 nuclear power reactors. They have been operating for a collective number of 10,000 reactor years of experience. There are now 200 new nuclear power plants being planned around the world. During the entire nuclear power period there have been only two accidents: Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Only one of those, Chernobyl, had fatalities associated with it, and there is no denying that was a major, major accident.
However, what we do forget as we think about risk is what happens as a result of the emissions from coal and power plants every year from mining. The number of deaths every year associated with coal mining so that we can actually power coal fired generating plants far exceeds the number of deaths associated with the Chernobyl disaster, and yet we never balance out those risks. That is what our job is as legislators, to balance choices, to balance risks and try and do the best we can for the future.
The fourth point I want to make is about nuclear waste itself. It is a problem which ultimately is technologically controllable. The exciting part, if I may say so, about nuclear waste is that it represents a potential future source of energy which we have not found a way of exploiting yet. There will be a new generation of reactors which will be able to extract from our existing nuclear waste energy almost on an indefinite, time unlimited basis. It is true we do not know exactly what that road ahead looks like of using nuclear waste for new power, but we also know that if we do not get on with change what our future looks like in a world of plus 2°C climate change. That we have a much stronger sense of. Again we have to choose; we have to balance.
My fifth point is that we have in AECL, a world leader, a company which has led the nuclear revolution not only in power but in medical isotopes and other areas. It deals with an evolving technology which has a tremendous future. Someone somewhere in the world, some industrial group is going to be developing the next generation of nuclear plants and the question is why should Canada, pioneers in this area, leaders for half a century, not be that somebody? Why should we leave it to France or to General Electric if we are going to be having a nuclear future in any event?
This brings me to the sixth point which is national interest. We have had interesting debate recently on a Canadian owned company, MDA, which developed RADARSAT and the Canadarm, as to what our national interest is in high tech companies. The government has said, and I credit it with this, that for things like space technology, this is in the national interest. I would argue that AECL is in the same vein. It is in our national interest to give this technology the resources and the support to take us to the next level and to take that technology to the world to see it not only in terms of contributing to the climate change debate but to wealth creation.
Finally, by passing Bill C-5, clearly we are anticipating a long life ahead for nuclear power in Canada, otherwise we would not have this bill. This might as well be a future where Canada is a leader. As the member for York Centre used to put it in his former life as a hockey player with the Montreal Canadiens as they got ready to play a game but they were feeling a little discouraged, “Well, since we have to play the game anyway, we might as well win it”. I think the same is true of nuclear power.
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-05-06 13:47 [p.5488]
Mr. Speaker, three points were raised, and very valid ones, by my colleague.
First, he raises the question of establishing true costs. However, in any discussion of true costs, we have to compare, for example, what the true costs are of coal-fired electrical generating plants. Do we take into account the true cost to health when the particulate goes up? Do we take into account the true long term cost of global warming? Therefore, I am in favour of true costs, but they have to be compared on a wide basis.
Second, on the issue of subsidy, I think that is right. This is an industry, certainly through AECL and its research side, that needs to be subsidized. It needs to be controlled by the Government of Canada because it is such a crucial technology and it is also one which, if mishandled, has very dangerous and negative consequences. Therefore, I do not shy away from the notion of subsidizing a technology which takes us to a new place and will enhance our export capacity.
Finally, on the subject of unlimited liability, I guess the issue is if we were to change it from $650 million to unlimited liability, would we in fact destroy the possibility of there being a nuclear power future for Canada and the world?
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-05-06 13:49 [p.5489]
Mr. Speaker, to the extent that there is a climate change policy of the government, I would be very hard pressed, generous as I am and creative as I am, to find a connection between a nuclear strategy and a climate change plan and also one in which we saw the wealth creating component of our future climate change plans as being part of the mix, that when we think of climate change and the future we have to think of technologies and how we can actually make money by being green and by doing the right think.
I would locate this larger debate about nuclear power in that context about innovation and wealth creation.
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-03-14 11:11 [p.4184]
Mr. Speaker, the International Day of la Francophonie allows us to highlight the importance of the French language for our country and also provides the opportunity to reflect on the role Canada should have among francophone nations, thanks to institutions such as The Toronto French School.
Canada must ensure that its participation in the francophone dialogue promotes the French language as well as francophone values among member countries of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Our country can make our point of view known to other countries by setting an example and ensuring that member countries respect the same principles as we do, such as justice, transparency and democracy.
By participating fully in the promotion of la Francophonie, Canada has the opportunity to strengthen the credibility of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and to attract as members other countries with a francophone component.
The significance of the International Day of la Francophonie extends beyond the borders of our country and Canada should be its proud standard-bearer.
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-03-07 11:03 [p.3794]
Mr. Speaker, this week we are celebrating International Women's Day. It is therefore important to highlight the value of women to our society and underscore the issues that affect them.
There is no doubt that women have made a significant contribution to Canada's social, economic, cultural and community life. All the same, we must recognize that they have had to face many challenges and overcome numerous obstacles throughout history. Let us not forget that women are still fighting for equality and respect.
International Women's Day reminds us that we must not only provide more funding for women, we must also recognize the sacrifices that our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives have made. I ask my colleagues to join me in urging the government to make women a priority so that Canada can truly join the 21st century.
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-02-11 12:01 [p.2861]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues who have supported the bill and also the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and the member for Trinity—Spadina for their support. It is quite appropriate that the member for Mississauga South, being an accountant, should be so supportive of something which demands greater accountability.
I thank everybody for participating in the debate and I look forward to meeting people in committee as we get into the fine details.
I will begin with the remarks made by the Speaker on the question of royal recommendation. As I indicated in a reply to him previously, we recognize the difficulty of the royal recommendation in establishing an independent commissioner right now. We support the principle of doing that, but we think this is mostly about a national sustainable development act. Therefore, we will use the existing office of the Commissioner of the Environment and the existing mandate.
We will also no longer require the commissioner to evaluate, in advance, the likelihood of success. We think there is a fair criticism there and we would be better off having the commissioner monitor and then audit the success of a plan developed by the government as envisaged under the bill.
Also, I want to make the point about the advisory committee on sustainable development. We will make it clear that these positions are non-remunerative. Hence, we will avoid the necessity for royal recommendation.
In response to a criticism made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, he says that all the problems can be solved by the existing situation. However, the previous minister of the environment and the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment both have been vehement in their criticism of the current arrangement calling for change, and that is what the bill would do.
The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie raised some problems having to do with provincial jurisdictions.
We will eliminate references to the provinces in the legislation to make it clear that this will be about federal departments and about a national plan.
The cabinet committee, which was referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, does not require royal recommendation. It was never suggested so by the Speaker and his officials. It is a machinery of government issue where there are existing resources.
On the question about the petitions process, we agree that we do not need the section on the petitions process because the existing petitions process will work. Therefore, we recognize that problem and we will remediate through amendments at the committee stage.
Finally, in terms of the suggestion that everything is just fine and that a review by the environment department will solve the problem, this is what the green ribbon panel review committee said, about the very problem we are addressing here, in the report just released within the last month:
This decentralized, department-by-department approach to sustainable development strategies is unique internationally. Many countries have developed national sustainable development strategies and then assigned responsibility to departments for implementing the components.
Over the years, the Government of Canada has made a number of commitments to develop an overall sustainable development strategy, but has not done so. Many of the people we talked with—inside and outside government—view the absence of an overall strategy as a key gap in Canada's efforts to move along a sustainable development path. And the absence of concrete objectives and milestones makes the assessment of progress—a key part of the Commissioner's mandate—more difficult.
In this legislation we are simply responding to the criticism of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, responding to the criticism of the previous minister of the environment, responding to the criticism of the commissioner himself and responding to the criticism of the green ribbon panel.
What we will be doing, within the appropriate scope of a private member's bill, is addressing all these issues. We will eliminate some of the problems, thanking very much both the government for its suggestions and the Speaker, but we will accelerate the process of coming to grips with a real problem, which is there is no legislative framework that allows the commissioner to do the job and the Government of Canada truly to pursue a national sustainable development strategy.
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2008-01-31 15:23 [p.2434]
Mr. Speaker, it is with regard to the private member's bill that I introduced last year, Bill C-474, which is a bill to require the development and implementation of a national sustainable development strategy.
On December 7, 2007, the acting speaker invited comments as to whether this bill would require a royal recommendation and it was duly obliged on December 11 by the parliamentary secretary to the leader of the government in the House with a series of suggestions, the import of which was that yes, indeed this bill required a royal recommendation.
I have considered those remarks. I was invited to respond to that. As a result of consultations with House officials, I will be bringing forward a series of amendments, if the bill passes second reading and gets to the committee stage, which will address and amend any concerns there might be about this bill requiring a royal recommendation. I believe it will then satisfy the concerns raised by the parliamentary secretary.
View John Godfrey Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John Godfrey Profile
2007-12-11 17:32 [p.2040]
moved that Bill C-474, An Act to require the development and implementation of a National Sustainable Development Strategy, the reporting of progress against a standard set of environmental indicators and the appointment of an independent Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development accountable to Parliament, and to adopt specific goals with respect to sustainable development in Canada, and to make consequential amendments to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is with pride and pleasure that I rise to introduce and support Bill C-474, An Act to require the development and implementation of a National Sustainable Development Strategy.
Last October, the federal environment commissioner tabled a report that criticized the government for having no overall sustainable development strategy, no targets, no standard set of indicators and no rigorous reporting schedule, in short, no accountability on the environment.
The government responded by committing to a year long study by the same department, Environment Canada, that failed in the first place. In this timeframe, we could imagine this going beyond a future election. The department that failed to get other departments to fulfill their obligations on sustainable development is now being asked to figure out why.
The government's response is insufficient given the growing concern among Canadians for the environment. We have to do better and we must do it faster. That is the purpose of the bill I am introducing today at second reading, Bill C-474.
Back in 1995, the previous Liberal government responded to the demand for a stronger environment policy by introducing major changes to the Auditor General Act that required all federal departments to produce sustainable development strategies every three years.
By the time the third set of strategies was tabled in 2004, however, it had become clear that they were becoming little more than bureaucratic exercises that were not integrated and that accomplished precious little.
As a result, the then environment minister, now the Leader of the Opposition, was tasked with bringing the strategies together under one coherent umbrella and producing a single national sustainable development strategy by mid-2006, as the commissioner has documented in his latest report.
The hope was that a single overarching strategy would ensure that a clear set of goals and targets, reported regularly, would make government more accountable to Canadians and deliver better results. Unfortunately, the current government allowed the fourth set of departmental strategies to be tabled last year, almost a year after it was elected, with many of the same flaws that existed before.
Even the previous environment minister of the government expressed her concern, noting:
When you look at the sustainability reports that we just released, they clearly do not have rigorous reporting. You'll see, when you read them. The language is vague. We just do not have the level of accountability around any commitment to actual results or benchmarking or targets.
That is what the previous commissioner of the environment is reported as saying in the The Ottawa Citizen of December 15, 2006.
The current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment seconded that, agreeing in The Hill Times, as reported on November 5, 2007, that “it's crucial to have a strategy” and that it is “crucial that the Conservative government now come up with a sustainable development strategy” to ensure departments are held “accountable”.
Therefore, we have agreement on both sides of the House about the unsatisfactory nature of the current sustainable development requirements and their reporting.
Planning for the next set of departmental strategies will begin in approximately one year, but we cannot afford to allow another disjointed bundle of departmental reports to appear in two years. We need to fix the framework now.
There is a better way.
Canada should take its cue from countries such as the United Kingdom and Sweden, which by law require the production of a national sustainable development strategy, with clear goals and objective reporting. The results speak for themselves. Both the United Kingdom and Sweden perform much better environmentally than Canada in international comparisons.
Canada could be an international leader by adopting a similar legal framework. That is why I am introducing a national sustainable development act in the House of Commons that would usher in a new era of environmental accountability in Canada.
The act would legally require the government to develop and implement a robust national sustainable development strategy for Canada. This strategy would be monitored using a standard set of accepted environmental indicators by a fully independent commissioner of the environment and sustainable development reporting directly to Canadians. There would be no smoke, no mirrors, just the straight goods.
Before examining the bill in greater detail, I would like to acknowledge as a source of the bill the work of the David Suzuki Foundation. In January 2007 the foundation published a report: “Toward a National Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada: Putting Canada on the Path to Sustainability within a Generation”. We have worked closely with the foundation in drafting the bill. I thank its members for their help.
I would also like to recognize the work of The Natural Step, an organization formed in Sweden, with a significant presence here in Canada, in shaping the sustainable development goals outlined in the bill.
Three of the key principles of The Natural Step underlie our sustainable development goals and we state them in the bill under subclause 5(1):
The Government of Canada accepts the basic principle that, in a sustainable society, nature must not be subject to the systematic increase of:
(a) concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust;
(b) concentrations of substances produced by society; and
(c) its degradation by physical means.
Those are the principles that we have incorporated in the bill which we recognize as coming from The Natural Step.
The goals themselves on which these principles are based are listed in subclause 5(2) in paragraphs (a) to (f).
The Government of Canada therefore adopts the following goals for Canada with respect to sustainable development:
(a) Canada should become a world leader in
(i) living in a sustainable manner and protecting the environment,
(ii) making efficient and effective use of energy and resources,
(iii) modifying production and consumption patterns to mimic nature’s closed-loop cycles, thus dramatically reducing waste and pollution,
(iv) reducing air pollution and achieving air quality standards necessary to eliminate human health impacts, and
(v) exercising good water stewardship, by protecting and restoring the quantity and quality of fresh water in Canadian ecosystems;
Among the goals, the bill goes on to say, are that:
(b) Canada should move to the forefront of the global clean-energy revolution;
(c) Canadian agriculture should provide nutritious and healthy foods, while safeguarding the land, water and biodiversity;
(d) Canada should become globally renowned for its leadership in conserving, protecting and restoring the natural beauty of the nation and the health and diversity of its ecosystems, parks and wilderness areas;
(e) Canadian cities should become vibrant, clean, livable, prosperous, safe and sustainable; and
(f) Canada should promote sustainability in the developing world.
How do we do this? Clause 6 proposes changes to the machinery of government in subclauses 6(1) and 6(2).
Subclause 6(1) states:
The Governor in Council shall appoint a Cabinet Committee on Sustainable Development, chaired by the Minister, to oversee the development and implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy.
The minister referred to is the Minister of the Environment.
Subclause 6(2) states:
The Governor in Council shall establish a Sustainable Development Secretariat within the Privy Council Office to support the activities of the Cabinet Committee on Sustainable Development.
In other words, within the heart of the government at the cabinet level there needs to be a cabinet committee whose constant, unwavering focus is on a sustainable development strategy, and that cabinet committee needs the support of a sustainable development secretariat within the Privy Council Office.
Our previous sustainable development strategy has failed because of a combination of a lack of political will and a lack of bureaucratic support.
Clause 7 of the bill envisages the creation of a sustainable development advisory council and suggests a proposed membership representing a variety of Canadians.
Clause 8 outlines the process for actually creating a national development strategy:
8(1) Within two years after this Act comes into force and within every three-year period thereafter, the Minister shall develop, in accordance with this section, a National Sustainable Development Strategy based on the precautionary principle.
(2) The National Sustainable Development Strategy shall set out
(a) targets for the short term (1 to 3 years), medium term (5 to 10 years) and long term (25 years) to dramatically accelerate the elimination of all environmental problems, including targets with respect to each item listed in column 2 of the schedule;
(b) the implementation strategy for meeting each target, which may include, but is not limited to,
(i) caps on emissions, by sector and region that are consistent with the targets,
(ii) economic instruments, such as emission trading systems with a declining cap,
(iii) penalties for non-compliance,
(iv) ecosystem-based management, and
(v) full cost accounting;
(c) the timeline for meeting each target; and
(d) the person who is responsible for implementing the strategy.
In other words, we are trying to capture all parts of the system.
Finally, subclause 8(3) states:
The Minister shall submit a draft of the National Sustainable Development Strategy to the Sustainable Development Advisory Council, the Commissioner,--
That is the commissioner of the environment.
--the relevant Parliamentary committees,--
It is very important that there be feedback.
--the relevant stakeholders and the public for review and comment, for which the Minister shall allow a period of not less than 120 days.
After a process further outlined in the bill involving the cabinet committee on sustainable development, the national sustainable development strategy will be tabled in the House and the Minister of the Environment will make regulations prescribing caps and targets referred to in the strategy. Subsequently, all government departments will develop plans consistent with the strategy.
Clause 13 stipulates that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development shall monitor the effectiveness of the strategy and issue every year “a sustainability monitoring report”.
These are the broad elements of Bill C-474. I should also mention an important schedule, which is attached to the bill, describing in column one the goal and in column two the items relating to that goal. These goals and items are driven by and derive to some extent from the successful model of Sweden's environmental quality objectives.
Here are some examples of goals outlined in the schedule.
For example, the whole notion of “generating genuine wealth” is the goal. In order to do that, we need a new kind of index, one which will allow us to measure genuine wealth as opposed to that which is based on driving the environment down.
The second goal is “improving environmental efficiency”. How do we do that? Column two suggests that we might focus on energy consumption, materials consumption and water consumption.
Goal three is “shifting to clean energy”, which, by logic, makes us think that we must focus more on non-renewable energy as the item proposed.
Goal four tells us how we must focus on reducing waste and pollution and covers a wide variety of things, including greenhouse gases.
With this outline, the question is whether the Prime Minister and the government, who have criticized our inability to report on sustainability, will stand in the way of Bill C-474 or allow speedy passage of this bill.
Canadians are clearly demanding action on the environment. We have lost almost two years now under the Conservative government. It is now Canada's turn to show the same leadership that the United Kingdom and Sweden have in adopting their own versions of the sustainable development act I have introduced.
Having a new environmental accountability framework in place early in the new year would ensure that government departments would have enough time to adjust to the new regime before planning gets under way again next fall. We owe Canadians nothing less.
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