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3: Roles and responsibilities

The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (and related Progress Reports) is a broad horizontal strategy that consolidates all department and agency activities that contribute to the goals and targets. Each department has a role to play, making the management of the FSDS highly complex. The following section provides an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the various departments and agencies, FSDS committees and stakeholders in meeting the requirements of the FSDS.

3.1 Environment Canada


The Minister of the Environment has specific responsibilities under the Federal Sustainable Development Act (FSDA). The Act requires the Minister to:

  • establish a Sustainable Development Office within Environment Canada [(FSDA,7(1)];
  • establish a Sustainable Development Advisory Council (SDAC) [(FSDA,8(1)],
  • develop a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) every three years [FSDA,9(1)];
  • consult with the SDAC, the appropriate Parliamentary committees and the public on the draft strategy [FSDA,9(3)];
  • submit the draft FSDS to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) for review and comment (FSDA,9(4)];
  • seek the Governor in Council’s approval of the official FSDS [FSDA,10(1)]; and
  • table the FSDS [FSDA, 10(2)], and the triennial Progress Report on the federal government’s progress in implementing the FSDS, in both Houses of Parliament [FSDA, 7(2)].

As with all other Ministers of departments and agencies subject to the FSDS, the Minister of the Environment is responsible for developing Environment Canada’s own departmental sustainable development strategy [FSDA, 11(1)].

Sustainable Development Office (SDO)

The SDO is responsible for developing and maintaining systems and procedures to monitor progress on the implementation of the FSDS [FSDA, 7(1)]. Specifically, it must, at least once every three years, provide the Minister with a Progress Report on implementation of the FSDS [FSDA, 7(2)]. 

In addition to this legislative responsibility to prepare a Progress Report triennially, the SDO:

  • provides overall leadership and coordination on matters related to the FSDS;
  • supports the Minister in developing the triennial FSDS;
  • implements and maintains the FSDS Management Framework;
  • acts as a key interlocutor on behalf of Environment Canada with the CESD, Parliamentarians, other government departments (OGDs), key stakeholders and citizens;
  • reaches out across government, international agencies and to stakeholders to build awareness of the FSDS and its contribution to progress on Sustainable Development; and
  • contributes to the development of guidance and direction to departments/agencies on meeting the requirements of the Act.

The SDO is housed in the Strategic Policy Branch of Environment Canada under the responsibility of the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Branch and the Director General of the Sustainability Directorate.

3.2 Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC)

In the context of the FSDS, PWGSC will work with other government departments and agencies to improve the environmental performance of the federal government's operations. This includes:

  • providing greening government operations (GGO) related guidance to departments and agencies to support target establishment, implementation and reporting;
  • consulting with departments and agencies when developing possible future GGO targets, implementation strategies and performance measures; and
  • monitoring and compiling results on progress for the GGO goals, targets and implementation strategies for inclusion in the FSDS Progress Report and in accordance with the FSDS Management Framework. Importantly, however, each department is responsible for minimizing its own environmental footprint

As with all other Ministers of departments and agencies subject to the FSDS, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services is responsible for developing PWGSC’s own departmental sustainable development strategy [FSDA, 11(1)].

3.3 Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS)

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) is responsible for the Government of Canada’s Expenditure Management System (EMS), and provides advice on the integration of the FSDS with the EMS with respect to the Report on Plans and Priorities (RPPs) and Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs). TBS releases guidance, developed in collaboration with the SDO and PWGSC, to departments and agencies so they may meet their requirements for planning and reporting on sustainable development activities through existing RPPs and DPRs.

As with all other Ministers of departments and agencies subject to the FSDS, the Minister of the Treasury Board Secretariat is responsible for developing TBS’s own departmental sustainable development strategy [FSDA, 11(1)].

3.4 Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA)

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency promotes the application of strategic environmental assessments of policy, plan and program proposals of the federal government. New Guidelines for Implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals were simultaneously issued with the tabling of the FSDS in Parliament. The Guidelines instruct departments to consider a proposal’s impact on the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets when undertaking a strategic environmental assessment.

3.5 Other government departments/agencies

As section 11(1) of the Act mandates, departments and agencies must “prepare a sustainable development strategy containing objectives and plans for the department or agency that complies with and contributes to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, appropriate to the department or agency’s mandate”. 

Those departments and agencies required to produce Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies are listed in Appendix 1. Further clarification on the applicability of Theme IV targets to each department and agency is found in Appendix 2.

Departments will meet this requirement by integrating their sustainable development activities and reporting into their RPP and DPR as well as maintaining a departmental website that can include additional details on their respective contributions to sustainable development. Any gaps or outstanding issues that are identified which do not fall under a department or agency’s mandate will be brought to the FSDS DG or ADM Committees.

In addition, departments and agencies are expected to:

  • participate in the FSDS DG/ADM Committees and working groups;
  • implement guidance developed by Environment Canada, TBS, PWGSC and CEAA in support of the FSDS;
  • select and/or use indicators that will monitor, measure and report on progress of the goals and targets to which they contribute or lead;
  • track progress toward completion of their respective implementation strategies [FSDA, 9(2)];
  • participate in performance measurement of the FSDS (e.g. inter-departmental survey noted Annex 5);
  • provide access to advance FSDS information in RPPs and DPRs so that that material may be reflected in FSDS progress reports;
  • identify activities that could support future iterations of the FSDS; and
  • respond to requests for information in support of the FSDS Performance Measurement Framework (e.g. participate in surveys).  

Departments and agencies that do not fall under the Act may “voluntarily” come forward to participate in Theme IV of the Strategy.  These departments and agencies must meet all of the expectations of the Act departments outlined above to be deemed “voluntary”.   

3.6 Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD)

In compliance with the Auditor General Act, the CESD “provides parliamentarians with objective, independent analysis and recommendations on the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development”. As required under section (4) of the Act, the CESD is legally mandated to review the draft FSDS and comment as to whether the targets and implementation strategies can be assessed. The CESD is also legally required to review and comment on all FSDS Progress Reports focusing particularly on the fairness of performance information.

3.7 Governance--FSDS committees and working groups

Interdepartmental ADM Committee

The Interdepartmental ADM Committee, co-chaired by the ADM of the Strategic Policy Branch at Environment Canada, and by the ADM of Corporate Services and Policy Branch at Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), provides strategic direction, advances thinking, and makes decisions on key issues associated with the implementation of the Act. ADMs provide advice to ministers on key issues including, for example, the Management Framework, goals and targets and the content and structure of the FSDS and Progress Reports.

The Committee is composed of an ADM from each of the departments/agencies bound by the Act as well as those participating on a voluntary basis. Representatives are expected to brief their respective Ministers on a variety of decisions including final decisions related to the FSDS or Progress Reports. The committee is managed by the SDO.

Interdepartmental DG Committee

The Interdepartmental Director General (DG) Committee, co-chaired by the DG of the Sustainability Directorate at EC and the DG of the Office of Greening Government Operations at PWGSC, provides operational direction and guidance.  It also discusses key issues including, for example, the implementation of the Act and development of goals, targets and implementation strategies for the FSDS. The DG Committee is a venue for the SDO to share information related to the FSDS and/or the Progress Reports, including such items as audits by the CESD, communication plans and environmental indicators. The Committee plays additional roles as necessary. The Committee is composed of a DG from each of the departments/agencies bound by the Act as well as those departments and agencies participating on a voluntary basis. Representatives are expected to brief their ADMs in preparation for FSDS ADM Committee meetings. The committee logistics are managed by the SDO.

Key operating principles for committees

a) Decision-making: Committees will operate, to the extent possible, on a consensus basis. The decision-making process will be practical, transparent, inclusive, and in the interest of meeting the requirements of the Act while balancing the needs of departments/agencies. As appropriate, information is presented to relevant Deputy Minister Committees (e.g. PSMAC) for issues management. In the event that consensus cannot be reached, Environment Canada will make decisions that uphold the requirements of the Act as the highest priority.

b) Frequency of meetings: The DG Committee will meet at least quarterly and more frequently when required prior to the tabling of each FSDS and Progress Report. ADM Committee meetings will be on an ad-hoc basis at the recommendation of the DG Committee.

Inter-departmental Director-level Working Group on FSDS Assessment

Led by SDO and held on an as-needed basis, the Inter-departmental Director-level Working Group’s purpose is to prepare guidance and review outputs of the analysis or “checks” of the FSDS. Specifically, it is to signal opportunities for improvement in the FSDS and Progress Reports, identify best practices and lessons learned, provide and refine guidance to departments, and improve approaches used to develop, implement and evaluate the FSDS with a view to informing the Progress Reports and future iterations of the FSDS. The Working Group is also responsible for developing and updating the FSDS Management Framework.

3.8 Parliamentarians

Originally, the Minister of the Environment was required to table the FSDS in the House of Commons. An amendment to the Act has been passed requiring tabling in both the House and the Senate. In support of the amendment, the Minister tabled the first FSDS in both the House of Commons and the Senate. The Act also requires that a Cabinet Committee from the House and/or the Senate have oversight of the development and implementation of the FSDS. The participation of parliamentarians in the context of the FSDS is done through the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. In compliance with the Act, both Committees receive and comment on the draft FSDS

3.9 Sustainable Development Advisory Council

In compliance with the Act, the Sustainable Development Advisory Council (SDAC) is created and chaired by the Minister of the Environment. The SDAC is responsible for providing advice to the Minister of the Environment on drafts of the FSDS. Input provided by the members can be submitted to the Minister during SDAC meetings or in writing as part of the SDO’s consultation process on the draft FSDS.

Members are appointed by the Minister as prescribed under section 8(1) of the Act. SDAC members must represent their respective organization/industry’s interests, points of view and concerns at Council meetings. In addition to this, it is expected that members are knowledgeable on issues related to sustainable development.

3.10 Stakeholders and Canadians

Stakeholders, defined as members of the SDAC, CESD, NGOs, Academia, etc., and Canadians play a major role in the development of the FSDS by providing input and feedback on the draft FSDS. As mandated by the Act, the SDO must consult with stakeholders and Canadians for feedback and input into the FSDS. The feedback received from stakeholders and Canadians is summarized in a Consultation Synthesis Report produced by the SDO and informs the final FSDS and subsequent Progress Reports.

3.11 Consultation

Section 9(3) of the Act requires that for each draft FSDS there be a minimum 120-day consultation period with the related House of Commons Standing Committee/s, stakeholders and Canadians. When the consultation period is over, the SDO, as a practice, prepares two synthesis reports: one on the SDAC’s recommendations (available to SDAC members only) and the other on stakeholder and Canadians’ recommendations (to be posted for the public on Environment Canada’s Federal Sustainable Development Strategy website). The stakeholder and Canadian synthesis is made available to departments and agencies prior to the tabling of the final strategy.

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