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Listening to Canadians: What we heard

What we heard

What you liked

Your comments on the strategy included recognition that the 2019–2022 FSDS builds on the previous 2016–2019 strategy and continues to show improvements from past FSDS cycles. We heard that you liked the strong focus on engagement and the use of interactive platforms such as Get Involved and the flexible online version of the strategy. We also heard support for actions in priority areas such as climate change and clean energy.

Your sustainable development priorities

Across the submissions that we received, Canadians identified a number of sustainable development priorities for action. You asked us to consider the balance between economic growth and environmental protection. You spoke about the impacts of regulation and the price on carbon pollution, and you told us that faster and more transparent mechanisms for supporting municipal action and sustainable technology adoption are important across almost every priority area.

You urged deliberate but rapid action on sustainable development issues, recognizing that climate change in particular defines our time. We heard strong support for ambitious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet Canada’s Paris Agreement target to reduce emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. This included, for example, support for measures such as regulations to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as well as calls for federal leadership and support for a coordinated national approach to addressing this urgent challenge. At the same time, you urged us to also take action to help Canadian communities adapt to unavoidable climate change impacts. You told us that you want to leave a safe and healthy Canada for your children and for all future Canadians—and you believe that we cannot continue to act in a “business as usual” fashion.

You told us that you want to see even greater action to promote clean and renewable energy in Canada, calling for innovative solutions, green jobs, and a clear transition plan. You emphasized that it is important to achieve an appropriate mix of energy sources. You spoke frankly to us about competing priorities and questioned whether ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and investments in pipeline projects can be reconciled with sustainable development. Many asked us to consider the role of nuclear energy in our clean energy vision, expressing concern over the safety and environmental impacts of nuclear energy and advocated for responsible waste management practices in line with the “polluter pays” principle. You also told us that Canadians need support and training to fully participate in and benefit from the opportunities presented by the green economy.

You saw zero-emission vehicles as an important part of the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the challenge of climate change. You called on government to provide incentives for Canadians to purchase zero-emission vehicles as well as more action to build electric vehicle charging stations.

You pointed out that individual Canadians play a significant role, highlighting the need for citizens to adopt sustainable lifestyles and choose sustainable products. Noting that sustainability goes beyond the environment, you also emphasized that government should provide information and resources that help Canadians make healthy food choices. We also heard that you want us to help advance the circular economy, address food waste, and decrease single-use plastics.

We heard about the importance of protecting Canada’s lands and waters. Among other priorities, you called for action to address ocean plastics and to conserve Canada’s endangered grassland ecosystems. We heard about the importance of managing forests sustainably and protecting habitat that wildlife species need to survive and thrive, and we noted your concerns about clear-cut logging and deforestation. You also stressed the importance of sustainable water management practices and told us in clear and certain terms that all Canadians should have access to clean drinking water.

You said that you support reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We heard that working closely with Indigenous governments, communities, and values will help to accomplish our goals. You also told us that intergenerational equity guides your vision of a sustainable future.

You also talked to us about the importance of partnerships with provinces, territories, municipalities, industry, researchers, and the private sector. From supporting sustainable urban planning to developing sustainable development policy tools, you asked us to continue investing in these partnerships.

Your suggestions for improvement

While expressing support for measures in the FSDS, you called for even more ambitious goals, targets and actions, especially on climate change. You also spoke to us about ensuring that the principle of intergenerational equity continues to inform our strategy and about getting the balance right between environmental protection and economic development.

We heard support for greater emphasis on social and economic dimensions of sustainable development—as well as environmental sustainability—and closer alignment with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda. We also heard that you want to see rapid action to implement An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which received Royal Assent in February 2019 but has not yet come into force by order of Governor in Council.

You made suggestions for how to improve transparency and accountability through the FSDS, including through more frequent and more accessible reports on progress toward goals and targets.

Finally, we heard comments on individual FSDS targets, indicators and action plans and how to make them stronger, including the need to ensure targets are specific, measurable and include a baseline, and an indicator is identified to measure progress on each target.

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