OPENING STATEMENT OF ANDREW HAYES
INTERIM COMMISSIONER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
BEFORE THE STANDING COMMITTEE
ON ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
BRIEFING ON THE ROLE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
10 March 2020
1. Thank you, Madam Chair. We are happy to appear before your committee this morning. It is very important to us that parliamentarians take an interest in our work. With me today is Kimberley Leach, who is an audit principal responsible for many of our environmental and sustainable development audits.
2. With your permission, I would like to begin by providing a bit of historical context about the function of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
3. The idea of having some form of environmental auditor general for Canada had its origins in 1987 with the landmark Brundtland Commission Report. This report introduced the concept of sustainable development, which was again discussed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
4. The position of Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development was created in 1995 and was made part of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada by amendment to the Auditor General Act.
5. The amendments to the act also created 2 new government processes, namely departmental sustainable development strategies and environmental petitions, both of which I will touch on briefly.
6. Let me now give you an overview of our mandate.
7. The Commissioner is appointed by the Auditor General and provides parliamentarians with objective, fact-based information and expert advice on the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development.
8. First, we conduct performance audits on environmental and sustainable development topics. In these performance audits, we examine whether the activities and programs of federal organizations are being managed with due regard for economy, efficiency, and environmental impact. The performance audits that we report to Parliament follow the same processes, auditing standards, and methodology that we use for the Auditor General’s performance audits.
9. We also manage the environmental petitions process, which enables Canadians to obtain responses directly from federal ministers on specific questions that they have about environmental and sustainable development issues under federal jurisdiction.
10. We also review and comment on the federal government’s overall sustainable development strategy, and we monitor and report on the extent to which federal departments and agencies contribute to meeting the targets and goals set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
11. On behalf of the Auditor General, the Commissioner reports to Parliament at least once per year.
12. In addition to these responsibilities, the Commissioner also helps the Office of the Auditor General of Canada to incorporate environmental and sustainable development issues, as appropriate, in all of its work for Parliament. This includes considering the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, when selecting and designing performance audits. Canada and 192 other countries committed to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs in September 2015.
13. In 2018, we audited Canada’s preparedness to implement the SDGs. We concluded that the Government of Canada was not adequately prepared to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. There was no governance structure and limited national consultation and engagement on Canada’s approach, and there was no implementation plan with a system to measure, monitor, and report on progress nationally.
14. The SDGs will continue to be a priority area for the work of the entire Office of the Auditor General of Canada. For example, we are currently working on an audit of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which should be ready for tabling this fall. I look forward to reporting to Parliament on the government’s progress in achieving its objectives.
15. Madam Chair, we are always happy to discuss our past work with the committee, including our various reports on climate change, which will continue to be a priority area for the Commissioner’s work. I would also like to mention that we will present a report to Parliament later this spring on the transportation of dangerous goods.
16. As always, we are available to appear before your committee at any time. Your committee’s attention to our reports supports accountability. This allows you, as parliamentarians, to ask senior officials to appear before you to answer questions about our findings and explain how they intend to carry out your direction and our recommendations.
17. Madam Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.