An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (use of phosphorus)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.


Guy André  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Not active, as of Feb. 13, 2008
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to prohibit the use or sale in Canada and the import of dishwasher detergents and laundry detergents that contain phosphorus.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 10th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
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Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in relation to Bill C-469, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (use of phosphorus), requesting an extension.

June 9th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
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Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

I had a question directly, mainly, to Giorgio at this point.

You mentioned a petition that 7,000 people had signed, which was available to all parties, I gather. You mentioned that you had some role or influence in the creation of Bill C-469. I would just ask along those lines, then--because it's good when we get input from across the country, from different people and players, and so on--what kind of direct involvement you had in the drafting of this particular bill. In what fashion were you consulted?

June 9th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.
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Full Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Montréal, As an Individual

Dr. Richard Carignan

No; my only point was that, by getting into a discussion of agriculture and buffer strips, we were getting off today's topic, which is Bill C-469 dealing with phosphorus concentrations in detergents.

We should not just forget about the other issues. However, my view is that those issues have to be resolved one at a time. You will never be able to draft legislation that deals with all sources of phosphorus at the same time. We have to resolve this problem piece by piece. And, phosphorus concentrations in dishwasher detergents are a small piece that we can resolve easily.

June 9th, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.
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Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

So July 2010 seems to be the standard that's been set in numerous jurisdictions. So Bill C-469 could speed up that process by maybe even as much as a year or a year and a half, but it could create a problem with product availability for consumers.

June 9th, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.
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Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for being here, and also to Dr. Carignan for being here.

Ms. Jelley, I would like to ask you some questions about the date of the act coming into force. As you are aware, the government introduced a notice of intent to regulate back in February, and for the benefit of you witnesses, I just want to read what Bill C-469 requires.

It says in proposed subsections 117.1(2) and 117.1(3), respectively, that:

Paragraphs (1)(a) and (b) come into force 180 days after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.

Paragraph (1)(c) comes into force 360 days after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.

So if Bill C-469 were to receive royal assent this fall, what would it mean to the industry if we had this in effect six months after receiving royal assent? What would it mean to consumers to have that product available?

June 9th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
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Giorgio Vecco Coordinator, COMGA (Gatineau River Watershed Committee)

I will read my statement.

The Comité du bassin versant de la rivière Gatineau, or COMGA, is a regional issue table that brings together a variety of players with an interest in the watershed. Its main mandate is to execute the Water Management Master Plan, or PDE, and its mission is to ensure proper protection of the quality of our water resources.

Following increased detection of algal blooms caused by external phosphorus imported into the lakes of the Gatineau River watershed and Quebec in general, the COMGA introduced an on-line petition on August 16th, 2007, calling for a ban on the use of phosphates in laundry and dishwashing detergents.

When the petition was completed, some two months later, 7,843 people from across the province had signed it and were in support of a complete ban on phosphates in soaps. That petition was immediately presented to the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and the Green Party.

The involvement of the Bloc Québécois, through its environmental critic, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, Mr. Bernard Bigras, resulted in the tabling of Bill C-469, an Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, with a view to banning the manufacture, sale or importation of laundry or dishwasher detergents containing phosphates.

Phosphates are still allowed in Canada in concentrations as high as 2.2 per cent by weight, in laundry soaps. As for automatic dishwashing soaps, the proportion of phosphates can be much higher. Some have as much as 8.7 per cent by weight, which reflects the maximum concentration allowed under the laws of certain U.S. states.

The COMGA supports any legislation intended to reduce phosphorus imports into our waterways, as they are one of the main causes of algal blooms from cyanobacteria. That is why we support a ban on the use of phosphates in soap. However, it is important to remain vigilant as regards the formulation of alternatives to phosphates. The addition of phosphates to soaps makes them better at cleaning, because they soften the water and release the dirt in suspension, making oil and grease soluble. Without the softeners, these soaps do not work well in hard water. Hard water is water with a calcium concentration of between 80 and 120 parts per million, which is the case in many municipalities across Quebec.

In the late 1980s, a number of European countries and some U.S. states eliminated phosphates from soaps with a view to avoiding eutrophication of waterways and the formation of mucilage in sea water. The softening action was achieved through the use of other sequestering agents, such as EDTA, NTA, zeolite and sodium citrate.

The COMGA believes it is extremely important that the use of sequestering agents intended to be an alternative to phosphates in the manufacture of soap also be legislated based on their environmental impact. For example, EDTA has sometimes been shown to be extremely toxic. It forms highly stable complexes with metals and can keep in suspension such heavy metals as mercury, cadmium or lead, which are deposited and remain inert on the bottom of waterways. EDTA may also react with iron in hemoglobin, turning it into a poison. Another sequestering agent, NTA, is suspected of causing mutations in humans.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to present the views of the COMGA on this subject.

June 9th, 2008 / 3:45 p.m.
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Chera Jelley Director, Policy, Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association

Thank you.

I'm dealing with a cold, so I apologize in advance if I start coughing.

Mr. Chair and members of the committee, it's a pleasure to appear before the committee today. Unfortunately, as the chair has pointed out, Shannon Coombs, president of the CCSPA, was unable to attend at the last minute. I will try to answer any questions you may have to the best of my ability. I am Chera Jelley, and I'm the director of policy for CCSPA.

The Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association is a national trade association, which represents 46 member companies across Canada. Collectively it is a $20 billion industry, directly employing 12,000 people in over 100 facilities. Our companies manufacture, process, package, and distribute consumer, industrial, and institutional specialty products such as soaps and detergents, pest control products, hard surface disinfectants, deodorizers, and automotive chemicals.

On September 26, 2007, CCSPA announced an industry-led initiative to limit the phosphorous content of household automatic dishwasher detergent manufactured for sale in Canada, to a maximum of 0.5% by weight, effective July 2010. Regulatory and legislative changes with these same goals are currently under way in several U.S. states and in the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec. It is critical to have the same regulatory requirements in both Canada and the U.S., to ensure an integrated and harmonized North American market. This will allow our industry to remain competitive on the global market.

On February 15, 2008, the Government of Canada announced its intention to regulate the phosphorous content in laundry detergent and dishwasher detergents to a maximum of 0.5% effective 2010. The notice of intent was published the following day in the Canada Gazette, Part I. CCSPA supports the intent of the notice of intent and will be participating in the consultation process, both on the NOI and the anticipated regulatory amendments to the phosphorous concentration regulations under CEPA.

CCSPA recommends to the committee that Bill C-469 not proceed as it conflicts with existing federal regulation, the federal notice of intent to create new federal regulations, the draft legislation in Manitoba, and the draft regulations in Quebec.

There are a few reasons why Bill C-469 should not proceed. As stated in CEPA, it is recommended that separate regulations be established in order to deal with the concentration levels of a prescribed new trend in products such as laundry detergents and dishwasher detergents. The intent of CEPA was not to prescribe concentration limits within the act itself; it was done to keep the legislation concise and with the knowledge that it is more efficient to create or amend regulations rather than amend existing legislation.

As the senior counsel for the Department of Justice pointed out at the committee last week, CEPA is a framework that enables the creation of regulations. He said that the regulations are the best place to make these changes. If it is done via legislation, which is the intent of Bill C-469, it ties the hands of a flexible regime, i.e., CEPA. Changing the act itself actually weakens the regime; it doesn't make it stronger.

It is important to note that reducing the amount of phosphorous in automatic dishwasher detergents and laundry detergent will not solve the blue-green algae problem, as the largest contributors are human sewage waste and agriculture runoff. Laundry detergents and automatic dishwasher detergents account for approximately 1%.

Unless the two significant contributors are addressed, blue-green algae will continue to be a problem. An example would be Italy, which is one of three European countries to have a specific household automatic dishwasher detergent limit. Italy reduced the phosphorous content in household automatic dishwasher detergent to 6% over an eight-year staged process. While the eutrophication has been reduced, it is widely believed that it was a combination of substantial investment in upgrading waste water treatment facilities and consecutive years of dry summers.

In conclusion, regulatory authority already exists under CEPA to create regulations that limit the phosphorous content in products such as dishwasher detergent and laundry detergents. Providing limitations and regulations rather than legislation allows flexibility for future changes and/or additions. Making changes to legislation is often more challenging.

The federal government has already indicated their desire to regulate the phosphorous content in these products through a notice of intent. This will allow the government to amend the existing federal regulations and will ensure consistency with proposed regulations in Quebec, draft regulations in Manitoba, and current regulations that already exist in several U.S. states.

In our opinion, amending legislation may provide a cumbersome challenge for future governments to modify phosphorus levels for the targeted product categories in this discussion. Therefore, CCSPA recommends one of two options. The first is that the bill not proceed; instead, a motion should be passed requesting that the federal government proceed with a federal regulation under the phosphorus concentration regulation. The second is that the bill be amended to instruct the Minister of the Environment to create federal regulations under the phosphorus concentration regulations.

This will ensure that regulations are created, rather than amendments to CEPA.

As the officials from the Department of Justice have pointed out, amending the act, which Bill C-469 proposes, will actually weaken CEPA, not make it stronger. While we support the intent of the bill, we think it is better to amend the existing federal regulations.

Thank you for allowing me to participate today, and I welcome any questions.

June 9th, 2008 / 3:40 p.m.
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Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

We can hear from the witnesses now, but I would like to have ten minutes at the end to take another look at our future committee work. I think that would be appropriate. We are not going to get into a second debate, but we should consider whether the Committee could meet next Thursday in order to proceed with clause-by-clause consideration. That way, we could complete our study of Bill C-469 and, next week, begin our consideration of other items, as agreed recently.

June 9th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

I don't have a problem with giving an extension to Bill C-469, but the testimony we heard at our last meeting from the department—Daniel Blasioli said what is being proposed would actually weaken CEPA—really concerned me.

What's being proposed by a Bloc member, Mr. André—and thank you for being here--and what the government did by notice of intent in February are pretty similar, but they have different results. In doing it by regulation as opposed to by a private member's bill, you use CEPA and amend what's already in CEPA to 0.5%. Its effective coming into force date will be July 2010.

So the bills are similar. The Bloc wants it to come into force approximately a year earlier, and we can hear from witnesses what the ramifications of that will be. But I want to remind the committee that what's being proposed will actually weaken CEPA. We don't want to weaken any environmental legislation; we want to strengthen things when we can. We just did a total CEPA review about a year ago.

I'm a little concerned, and I would ask if Mr. Bigras would be willing to remove Bill C-469.

June 9th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Chairman, I would like to begin by reading the motion I am tabling, and then I will explain my rationale.

That the Committee report to the House at its first opportunity the following: Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, your Committee is requesting an extension of thirty sitting days to consider Bill C-469, an Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (use of phosphorus) thereby providing the Committee with a total of ninety sitting days during which to complete its study of the bill. The Committee finds it necessary to consult further in order to give the bill the consideration it requires. Therefore, it requests an extension of thirty sitting days.

The reason I am tabling this motion today is as follows: as you know, we have a schedule for our study of Bill C-469. According to that schedule, we were supposed to hear from witnesses today and go to clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on Wednesday. However, it is now clear that no committees will be meeting on Wednesday. Because we have until June 11 to study this bill, I am proposing an extension.

June 4th, 2008 / 5:25 p.m.
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Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

So Bill C-469 is proposing that this take place substantially earlier, and timing is very important. Given the mass production nature of the detergents, is it likely that the implementation of Bill C-469 in Canada alone--if it was just in Canada alone--would limit the industry's ability to reformulate and provide Canadian consumers with safe and effective and affordable products?

June 4th, 2008 / 5:20 p.m.
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Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Thank you for being here.

I have a number of questions. Hopefully we can have short answers, so that I can have a chance to share my time with Mr. Harvey.

I think you were in the room when we heard from Mr. André. He has indicated that there's an appetite to look at exemption for hospitals and also an appetite to consider the 0.5%.

Are there other specific exemptions? Could you make a recommendation to the committee on Bill C-469? What specific exemptions would you like to see? Is it just hospitals? What exemptions would you recommend?

June 4th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
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Marcel Lussier Bloc Brossard—La Prairie, QC

The presenter of Bill C-469 often mentioned septic facilities. The word “defective” is very often associated with them. Will the government's research make it possible to establish, for example, the distances that must be respected between a lake and septic facilities? Does the department intend to intervene in those construction rules?

June 4th, 2008 / 4:45 p.m.
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Margaret Kenny Director General, Chemical Sectors, Department of the Environment

Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. We are very pleased to be before you today to assist you in your consideration of this bill.

I would like to begin by spending a moment on the important issue of blue-green algae and the role of phosphorus in its growth. We know that phosphorus-loading into our surface water can lead to a number of problems, including oxygen depletion, and that it can act as a nutrient that supports the growth of these algae.

When the nutrient levels in the water are high, the blue-green algae can form blooms that dominate the natural community and are capable of producing toxins that can be harmful to humans, livestock, and fish. The toxins themselves are odourless and tasteless, but there are other compounds that can result in foul taste or odour problems, which can impact on the recreational use of water and drinking water.

Environment Canada has been studying blue-green algae for a number of years and agrees that it is of the utmost importance that we reduce the risks of these toxins.

One factor in the proliferation of these blooms that we can affect is the concentration of phosphorus entering our surface waters. In fact, Environment Canada introduced regulations to do so in the 1970s, at that time under the Canada Water Act; these were later reflected in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Since the regulation came into force, the use of phosphorus in laundry detergent has steadily diminished, but the growing number of dishwashers in Canadian households has meant that the phosphorus from this source has increased. This is why the government recently published a notice of intent in part 1 of the Canada Gazette to amend the phosphorus concentration regulations.

The notice of intent indicated that the proposed changes to these regulations would introduce a limit of 0.5% or lower by weight of phosphorus. At the present time, dishwasher detergent can contain up to 8%. As such, the results of this proposal would lead to considerable reductions in the level of phosphorus entering these waters.

At the same time, this notice proposed to further reduce the limit of phosphorus in laundry detergent from the current level of 2.2%, again to 0.5%.

Finally, the notice of intent indicated that other cleaning products would be examined to determine the feasibility of reducing their levels of phosphorus as well.

Over the past several months we've undertaken significant consultations, examined the current science in the field, and identified some best practices in other jurisdictions. On this basis, it is clear that the proposed changes I have described would require reformulation of products that are currently in the marketplace.

Industry has indicated that it's willing to meet these new limits, but it needs time to reformulate in order to find safe and effective alternatives. In fact, the Canadian Consumer Speciality Products Association in October led an initiative to voluntarily limit phosphorus concentrations to 0.5% by weight by July 2010. We also recognize that a number of U.S. states as well as the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba are proposing limits that would come into effect in 2010. For these reasons, we believe that consideration of any new standards should consider a similar date.

In undertaking our consultations and carrying out our research, we've also determined that it's important to consider reasonable exemptions for reasons of health and safety. This is of particular importance for institutions such as hospitals and restaurants, where machines use much bigger loads, have higher temperatures, and are cycling through much faster than those we would typically find in our household machines. Phosphorus plays a role in cleaning and sanitation for these specialized applications.

The results of our consultations have also underlined considerations regarding the level of phosphorus that could be prescribed in regulation.

It's important to note that all other jurisdictions, including Manitoba and Quebec, that we're aware of, have proposed limits of 0.5% phosphorous to accommodate incidental presence and the technical difficulties in trying to ensure 0% phosphorous.

Such a complete ban on phosphorous of these products in fact could constitute a violation of Canada's obligations under the WTO agreement on technical barriers to trade and NAFTA, as it could be seen as a measure that would be more trade restrictive than necessary, particularly when other jurisdictions are not imposing such a ban.

In addition to looking at ways to amend the phosphorous concentration regulations, Environment Canada is also working with provinces and territories to develop common standards and regulations for municipal waste water effluent that would also reduce the level of phosphorous entering our surface waters.

According to our current scientific information, this in fact is one of the most important sources of phosphorous entering our waterways, and the development of national standards implemented in jurisdictions for municipal waste water effluent will raise the Canadian standard for treatment and ensure that more phosphorous is filtered out during that treatment. We anticipate proposing such a regulation this year.

Before concluding with these remarks, we'd like to emphasize that each water body and its drainage basin is in fact unique and that the best approach to phosphate control and management can differ from system to system. While it may seem pollution sources are sometimes obvious, in reality this problem is complex because there are a number of sources.

In any given watershed, some of the phosphate sources can be difficult to locate and measure because they spread out, such as in the case with poorly managed septic systems. That is why we believe it's important for Environment Canada to continue to work with municipal, provincial, and territorial partners to ensure we take the necessary care to protect and preserve waters.

As outlined above, the Department of the Environment agrees that the proliferation of blue-green algae is an important and complex issue, so we are supportive of the intent of Bill C-469. Our intention is to amend the phosphorous concentration regulations to effectively reduce the amount of phosphorous these products contribute to Canadian waters, while providing the time necessary for the proposed limits to be met.

I will conclude simply by saying that Bill C-469 is certainly an option for addressing this important issue. It does, however, pose a number of challenges that will require consideration.

We'll be happy to answer any questions members of this committee may have and to provide any follow-up analysis or information you may request.

June 4th, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
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The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

I would like to begin.

The clerk is handing out the report of our steering committee. It's very brief. We met yesterday to consider business after we've finished Bill C-469.

The committee looked at Mr. Scarpallegia's proposal and agreed that we should have two information meetings on the description, history, technology, future developments, and so on, of the oil sands. The intention is to make the meetings largely informational to begin with. Of course, in the fall we will begin with a more complete study.

So I would like you to think about that for a minute. If you agree, we will proceed to get witnesses for the 16th and 18th. They will provide us with information on the subject. We'll do our best to get a wide range of witnesses.