Monitoring the Government’s Sustainable Development Strategies

Sustainable development is the approach Canada and many other countries have chosen to integrate environmental, economic, and social priorities into policies and programs. It encourages the responsible and sustained use of natural, human, and economic resources, taking into account future generations.

Sustainable Development Strategies Are Key Tools for Government

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 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.

The Commissioner has audited a number of sustainable development strategy commitments, including

  • using the tax system to achieve sustainable development;
  • funding for green infrastructure;
  • green employment—the skills and knowledge required to make Canada a more sustainable society; and
  • managing office solid waste.

By auditing sustainable development commitments and reporting the findings to Parliament, the Commissioner helps parliamentarians make departments and agencies more accountable for their commitments.


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