The Work of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

As part of the Office of the Auditor General, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development promotes sustainable development and good environmental management by the federal government. The Commissioner’s work involves the following activities:

Auditing for results

Performance audits look at whether activities designed to respond to federal environmental and sustainable development policies are well-managed, with a focus on results. Audit topics are selected based on a range of considerations and input. Departmental progress on recommendations from past audits is monitored, and follow-up audits are conducted.

Managing the environmental petitions process for Canadians

The petitions process was established by Parliament to make sure Canadians get timely answers from federal ministers on specific environmental and sustainable development issues that involve federal jurisdictions. Petitions have prompted action by federal departments on topics such as new environmental projects, follow-up on alleged violations, and changes or clarifications in policies and practices. A catalogue of petitions and responses is available on our website.

Monitoring sustainable development strategies

Departmental sustainable development strategies. Since 1995, designated departments and agencies have been required by law to prepare sustainable development strategies, and then update and present them to Parliament every three years. These strategies are meant to be the main vehicle to drive responsible management, from an environmental and sustainable development perspective, throughout the federal government.

Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. In 2008, the Federal Sustainable Development Act was passed, requiring the Minister of the Environment to develop an overarching Federal Sustainable Development Strategy with sustainable development goals and targets as well as an implementation plan for meeting each target. The Strategy also identifies the minister responsible for meeting each target.

Departmental sustainable development strategies must have plans and objectives that comply with and contribute to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

The Commissioner’s monitoring responsibilities. The Commissioner assesses the quality of the departmental strategies and whether the plans set out in these sustainable development strategies have been implemented. He monitors and reports on how well federal departments have contributed to meeting the targets and goals set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

The Commissioner also provides comments to the Minister of the Environment on whether the targets and goals in the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy can be assessed. He also reports to Parliament on the fairness of the information in the federal government’s progress report on the implementation of its federal strategy.


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