Remarks by Mr. Mel Cappe 
to the 
Leaders' Forum on Sustainable Development 

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April 4, 2000 

Check Against Delivery


  • Good morning - glad to be invited to participate in this Forum.
  • Want to start out by saying thank you to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and departments who organized this Leaders' Forum on Sustainable Development.
  • I would also like to thank all of you for being here today. I believe this is the first event of this kind in Canada - to get a group of leaders from both inside and outside of government together to discuss sustainable development (SD) issues, challenges and opportunities facing Canada.
  • Your knowledge of SD, your experiences, your personal interest in the issue and your role as a leader in government, business or elsewhere in our society will, I am sure, make this an intellectually challenging and fruitful day for all who participate.
  • A few years ago, when I was the Deputy Minister of the Environment, there was much debate on the meaning of SD. Today, as Clerk, I am glad to see that we are intent on moving beyond the rhetoric, and putting the rubber to the road.
  • SD - the integration of social, environmental and economic dimensions into decision making - is integral to the way we do business in the federal government and in external organizations, many of which are represented here today.
  • I am personally encouraged by the progress government, private and not for profit/voluntary sectors have made on this front. However, I recognize that much more needs to be done.

Sustainable Development is a priority for the Government of Canada

  • Let me spend a few minutes outlining how the federal government has embraced SD.
  • Canada is unique in the world in having a Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development as part of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.
  • As you know, since 1995, most departments and agencies have been required to prepare Sustainable Development Strategies to outline concrete goals and action plans for integrating SD in their respective policies and operational activities.
  • We place an emphasis on SD because it is in the public interest to do so - it speaks to our values as public servants.
  • In the October 1999 Speech From the Throne, the Government committed to placing a greater emphasis on SD in government decision-making.
  • The February 28 Budget allocated new resources to build a higher quality of life for all Canadians.
  • Overall, $700 million will be invested in the environmental agenda.
  • $9 million to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and Environment Canada to develop, in collaboration with Statistics Canada, SD indicators. This new tool will increase our knowledge regarding SD and help gauge our performance both as a nation and as a government - an important tool to help us focus on outcomes and results.
  • $100 million to create a Sustainable Development Technology Fund to stimulate the development and demonstration of new environmental technologies.
  • $125 million to increase the energy efficiency and environmental effectiveness of municipal infrastructure.
  • The Government of Canada is committed to setting an environmental model of excellence in its own operations. In this area, we have a need to strengthen our efforts to deliver on the government's commitment, so I will be asking leaders across the system to ensure that this work receives appropriate attention and support. And I will be following their efforts with interest.

Managing the SD Challenge

  • We need to deal with SD in much the same way we deal with other issues on today's policy agenda. Let me touch four significant aspects.

1. A horizontal issue

  • First, SD is horizontal by definition.
  • Policy issues are more and more complex in nature. They also cut across departments, regions and sectors. SD is no exception - all departments are involved.
  • We have learned a great deal about teamwork in this endeavour but we need to move more effectively between our own departments and agencies, with other levels of government and internationally.

2. Long Term Approach

  • Second, SD requires a long term approach because our environmental, social and economic problems did not develop overnight, neither will the solutions to resolve them.
  • To evaluate our actions and policies to determine if they are environmentally and socially sustainable, we have to consider their longer term effects.
  • Only then can we prioritize what we need to change and work collectively to find solutions.

3. Partnerships with Canadians

  • Third, given the nature of these issues, the government can no longer work in isolation. We need to reach out and work with Canadians, other levels of governments and other sectors.
  • That is why your role as SD leaders here today and in your own organizations/fields is so critical.
  • Canadians have told us that they want to have more of a role in developing public policy.
  • Better consultation processes by government will result in better policies that are better understood and better meet the priorities of Canadians.

4. Interdependence between domestic and global activities

  • Fourth, the interdependence between domestic and global activities, the increased mobility of people, goods, currencies, information, and electronic commerce are some new realities which represent challenges for governments in the development of policies and programs.
  • In that context, the federal government has to develop new tools and ideas to make SD a reality.
  • New approach emerging: "E-government"
  • Example of "E-government" is "Government On-Line"
    • transforming how we serve Canadians and Canada
    • more than simply putting information and services on-line
    • improve accountability and administration of programs and services, share ideas, know-how and expertise
    • for SD, E-government could hold the promise for better information and better communicating this complex issue to Canadians. It is an option for action and more interactive consultation.

Sustainable Development Strategies

  • We have learned much from the first round of sustainable development strategies conducted by federal departments and agencies in 1997. As you know, the second round of strategies will be tabled in December 2000.
  • The Government of Canada is committed to ensure that we do a better job of coordination on horizontal issues and processes, ensuring more senior level involvement in consultations, and providing better feedback to participants.
  • This Forum is a clear indication of our commitment to these goals. It also represents an opportunity to strengthen the federal government performance in the second round of strategies.


  • Three closing messages:
  • First, SD is a priority for the Government of Canada and we are acting on our commitments.
  • Second, we, as the federal government, have to show leadership and realise our SFT commitment by doing more to green our operations.
  • Third, we need leaders at all levels and all sectors to address challenges in order to move ahead on SD, and realize the opportunities that will be afforded to Canada.
  • Your advice and contribution on the Government of Canada's approach to SD, especially regarding the eight priorities areas you will be discussing today, are welcomed and valued. It will be invaluable in helping us manage the complex public policy agenda.
  • I am hoping that the dialogue initiated here today will continue.
  • Thank you and enjoy your day.