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Planning For a Sustainable Future:
A Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada

Sustainable Development Office
Environment Canada

October 2010

Message from the MinisterThe Honourable Jim Prentice

I am pleased to present to Canadians the first Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, Planning for a Sustainable Future: A Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada. This Strategy will strengthen the way in which the Government of Canada promotes environmental sustainability, and it makes important improvements to the transparency and accountability of environmental decision-making.

To maintain our standard of living in the 21st century, Canada must address the important challenge of environmental sustainability. The issues are well known: we need to address climate change and air quality, maintain water quality and availability, and protect our natural heritage. We must balance environmental issues with economic and social considerations. By doing so, we can make long-term sustainable progress on the environment that is integrated with progress on the economic and social agenda for Canadians.

This first Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) puts the Government of Canada’s environmental priorities squarely within the broader context of social and economic priorities. The environment has an equal footing with the social and economic pillars of sustainable development in the FSDS, and this enables us to link environmental decision-making in a manner never before available to Parliamentarians and Canadians.

The FSDS replaces a system that was established in 1995, when amendments to the Auditor General Act required key federal departments and agencies to table in Parliament their individual strategies for sustainable development. The old system did not deliver the intended results. Without one government-wide strategy, environmental sustainability issues were often pushed to the margins of federal planning and reporting. There were no common goals or targets, and no way to measure federal accomplishments coherently. In government as elsewhere, what gets measured, gets done.

The new FSDS represents an opportunity to introduce some important improvements focused on three key elements. First, the FSDS will provide an integrated, whole-of-government picture of actions to achieve environmental sustainability. Second, we link sustainable development planning and reporting to the Government of Canada’s core expenditure planning and reporting system. This will help ensure that federal decision-makers take into account the environmental consequences of their policies and programs. Third, we establish effective measurement, monitoring, and reporting systems to track results and report on progress to Canadians. This will help us improve the system as we learn more and, just as importantly, it will help Canadians hold us accountable for what we are doing.

The FSDS focuses on environmental sustainability as a first step in integrating environmental concerns with economic and social considerations. If we address the issue of sustainability in a clear and coherent way, and take major steps to get the policy framework right, we will set in motion a process that will improve the way in which environmental, economic, and social issues are considered as a whole when making decisions.

The FSDS has benefited from the input and advice of many who care passionately about sustainable development, and have recommended ways to bring environmental issues to the heart of federal decision-making. We have consulted with Canadians, Parliamentarians in the House and Senate, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development as well as my Sustainable Development Advisory Council.

The Government of Canada welcomes this opportunity to improve planning and reporting for environmental sustainability through an approach that is both responsible and practical, and sets in motion the procedures that will lead to future progress. It will improve sustainable development in Canada, and will allow the Government of Canada to build and adapt as we learn over time.

I look forward to implementing this new FSDS and to learning from this process so that each subsequent three-year strategy may be improved and further advance sustainable development in Canada.

Jim Prentice
Minister of the Environment

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