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The Sustainable Development Act


“This Act brings Québec into the ranks of those few political entities in the world, among them a few American states, Manitoba, Luxembourg and Belgium, who have enacted legislation bearing specifically upon sustainable development. In so doing, and with the support of the people of Québec, we have responded to the urgent appeal of the United Nations, which in 2002 at the Johannesburg World Summit exhorted the nations of the world to accelerate their efforts to implement sustainable development,”

(Claude Béchard, Ministre du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs,
Québec government, April 13, 2006)

The Sustainable Development Act, a core element of the Sustainable Development Plan that the government presented to the population in the fall of 2004, underwent a vast public consultation held in 21 towns of Québec, followed up by a parliamentary commission in 2005.

Québec’s sustainable development legislation created a new sustainable development accountability framework for all departments and numerous government agencies.

Why was the Sustainable Development Act adopted?

The approach taken by the Québec government in sustainable development stems from the will to create a context for innovation and renewal of practices first within Québec’s public service and then expanded to municipal organizations, and educational, health and social services networks with their approval. Legally establishing an accountability framework for sustainable development is a way to make actions taken by players in these areas more coherent, since this framework helps to channel efforts that have already been undertaken to reach common goals.

In other respects, the Sustainable Development Act gives the Québec government the ability to meet its international commitments. Along with the governments in attendance at the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg (2002), Québec pledged to develop and implement a national sustainable development strategy.

It is also the culmination of one of the conclusions of the Forum des générations held by the Québec government in October 2004; a forum whose participants had recommended the application of measures favouring sustainable development. Also, the Sustainable Development Act’s assent is a response to the recommendation formulated in the 2003 –2004 report submitted by Québec’s interim Auditor General, which establishes the following with respect to sustainable development:

  • the absolute necessity for leadership confirmed within the Québec government;
  • the need for a clear vision with respect to the targeted directions and objectives;
  • necessary involvement through specific actions;
  • the need for evaluation and accountability mechanisms.

Québec’s Sustainable Development Act confirms the commitment of government departments and agencies and ensures the perenniality of the government’s sustainable development approach.

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The elements of the Sustainable Development Act

Québec has focused its approach on legislation that puts sustainable development at the heart of government action by setting clear rules. Thus, the law:

  • establises a definition of sustainable development for Québec;
  • introduces 16 principles to guide the actions of the public service;
  • commits the government to adopting a sustainable development strategy, a single one applicable to all departments and a considerable number of agencies;
  • assigns responsibility to the premier to table the Government Sustainable Development Strategy in the National Assembly and report on its progress every five years;
  • commits departments and agencies concerned to identify actions they will take to help reach the strategy’s governmental objectives and annually report results of their undertakings;
  • introduces sustainable development evaluation and accountability mechanisms to measure progress. Among other things, the Act commits the government to:
    • adopt a system of sustainable development indicators, and
    • appoint a Sustainable Development Commissioner reporting to the office of the Auditor General of Québec to ensure the transparent evaluation of results.

With this Act, the Québec government has entered an important phase by making sustainable development an intrinsic part of its activities.

Rapport sur l’application de la Loi sur le développement durable

The Rapport sur l’application de la Loi sur le développement durable takes stock of the first years of the implementation of the government’s approach, from the time the Sustainable Development Act came into force on April 19, 2006 to April 19, 2013.


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