Evidence of meeting #17 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was substances.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kenneth Maybee  Vice-President, Canadian Lung Association
Judith McKay  General Counsel, DuPont Canada
Jack Soule  Executive Director, Industry Coordinating Group for CEPA
Aaron Freeman  Director, Policy, Environmental Defence Canada
Kapil Khatter  Canadian Environmental Law Association
Michael Teeter  Principal, Hillwatch Inc., As an Individual
Barbara MacKinnon  Director, Environmental Research, New Brunswick Lung Association, Canadian Lung Association
Paul Glover  Director General, Safe Environments Programme, Department of Health
Cynthia Wright  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment

9:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

I would like to welcome our guests. Our procedure will be for each of you to take a maximum of ten minutes in your presentation, and then we will go to questions and answers. I would ask you to be very judicious about the time. That will give our members the opportunity to ask the maximum number of questions.

We'll go in the order that's on the agenda, and we'll begin with the Canadian Lung Association.

9:05 a.m.

Kenneth Maybee Vice-President, Canadian Lung Association

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and fellow witnesses.

I have a 30-minute brief, but I'll cut it down to 10 minutes, as your wish is.

On behalf of the board of directors of the Canadian Lung Association and our affiliates across the country, and of particular note, the one in five Canadians who suffer from respiratory disease, thank you for the opportunity to address this committee on this very important issue.

The Lung Association is one of Canada's oldest and most respected health charities. Recognized as the leader in lung health, our mission is to improve and promote lung health through support programs, education, research, and advocacy. Key areas of focus include outdoor and indoor air quality, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, asthma, smoking prevention and cessation, flu, and lung disease management. The association represents one in five Canadians--6,000 Canadians--who suffer from respiratory disease.

The Lung Association is concerned with any exposure to environmental toxins that impacts respiratory health, particularly air pollution and greenhouse gasses, which have common sources and common solutions. I have given three examples in your notes. In the interest of time, I will pass through those. There are many studies that underscore the need to take action to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gasses as part of a holistic framework to improve respiratory health within Canada. Specifications for pollution prevention and risk management in CEPA will be a critical component for use during the development of a national framework for respiratory disease in Canada, currently under way by the Canadian Lung Association. We believe it can be a focal point in some of the deliberations in future.

We have listed a number of priority recommendations for revisions to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The focus of the act must be on protection of human health and the environment. Reference to economic considerations should occur only in relation to the process of setting standards and regulations. Thus, the existing reference to sustainable development should clearly be secondary.

It is essential not only to keep the precautionary principle as the cornerstone of CEPA, but also to expand its definition to specifically address the concepts of duty to act and joint protection of human health and environmental health, explicitly engaging the action of both the Minister of Health and the Minister of the Environment.

Most importantly, the implementation of the act is as important as the act itself. Additional resources must be allocated to Health Canada and Environment Canada to improve their ability to actively implement the act--and I can't stress that point enough.

Given the act must first and foremost protect health, a number of things should be secured within the act.

First, the term “toxic” must be retained in the act. It is a scientifically accurate word and conveys health-risk meaning to the public and to policy-makers. The following definition of the term should be used in CEPA: “A substance is toxic if it has an inherent potential to cause acute or chronic adverse effects in living organisms, including humans, via ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact.”

I will skip over some of the other points here and move directly down to an important one. Carbon dioxide, being of greatest concern for its contribution to climate change, must remain in the act as a pollutant to be subject to regulatory control.

All decisions regarding toxic substances should explicitly consider exposures to vulnerable populations, such as children, pregnant women, aboriginal groups, and people more than normally exposed to multiple pollutants. The greatest long-term damage is done to children at exposures lower than those considered safe by the many health-risk studies. A tenfold child-protection factor should be used in all risk assessments. Again, I've listed a series of studies that will support that.

Remediation of contaminated sites, as well as pollution prevention, must be an explicit and timely response, specified in the act, to be actioned by the ministers of health and environment. Again, we make a case using the Sydney tar ponds as a perfect example, with a side note saying “Costs of remediation should be obtained from the parties responsible for the contamination”. Somewhere, as we move forward, I believe that's an important part that should go in on the polluter-pay concept.

Flexibility in CEPA procedures is needed in terms of timely handling of new exposure information on substances that will require assessment and regulation of consumer products.

On mandatory timelines, we need immediate action to deal with a significant danger. Ministers now have power to act, but this provision is not used as often as it should be. Barriers to its use should be identified and be removed. Again, I indicate various points that are most important.

In closing, regulations must be enforced. Mechanisms to increase public consultation in case of contamination and to increase public awareness and use of the act to protect the public's own health must be specified in the act.

I would also like to say, ladies and gentlemen of the panel, there's a great expectation on the part of the general public. Inherently, everyone in Canada knows we have a problem with air quality; everybody knows we have a problem with greenhouse gases and what is taking place there. Our expectation and hope is that as the new act comes in, every party can work together very closely to make this act the best possible act it can be for the people of Canada, whom each and every one of you represent, and the 6,000 suffering from respiratory disease whom we represent. We have pledged our support to work with you and our scientific folks to help you advance this critical issue at this critical time.

Again, on behalf of the Canadian Lung Association, and the one in five Canadians with respiratory disease we represent, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you here this morning, and we look forward to positive results.

9:10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

Good. Thank you very much and thank you very much for keeping the time as short as possible.

I also want to welcome Mr. Glover from Health Canada and Ms. Wright from Environment Canada. They will be interjecting as the debate goes on and questions are asked by members of the committee.

I will now go to Ms. McKay, from DuPont Canada.

9:10 a.m.

Judith McKay General Counsel, DuPont Canada

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today about DuPont's perspectives on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

My name is Judith McKay, and I'm the chief administrative officer for DuPont Canada.

My purpose today is to propose improvements to the new substances notification process of CEPA based on our experiences with the act.

I believe you all have a copy of the slide presentation. Feel free to refer to the slides as I make my remarks.

While DuPont has operated for more than 200 years, I'd like to tell you a little bit about our company today. DuPont's vision, you'll see on the first slide, is to be the world's most dynamic science company. We work to create sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, and healthier life for people everywhere.

Two weeks ago we announced our company's 2015 sustainability goals, in which we laid out our strategy to continually reduce our environmental footprint but also increase investment in research and increase revenue from environmentally sound technology. It's good for the public and it's good for business.

The next slide gives you some background on DuPont Canada. I won't go into detail, but you can see that we're a very well-established company in this country.

On slide four, you'll see that the objectives DuPont has and those of the government are very similar. We certainly recognize that the government should have a very strong role in protecting the environment and health. We support that role and respect it.

I'd like to now focus on our experiences with CEPA, with emphasis on a specific situation that we're experiencing involving the new substances notification program. Generally, let me say that the NSN program is adequate for routine situations, but in our situation, if we could look at it here as a case study, it concerns a substance assessment that has international implications, and where similar substances are already in commerce.

On slide five, you'll see that we've set out a chart to present our perspectives about the new substances notification program. The first column includes our expectations based on our understanding of the act. The middle column covers some of our experiences. Lastly, the far right column provides our recommendations for change.

Our first perspective deals with our expectation that the assessment process would be transparent and rigorous. Unfortunately, our experience showed that the process for new substances needs to be more transparent. For example, assessment reports are almost never shared with the notifiers. In our case, we were only able to get a copy of the report after persuading government officials to provide it to us. Furthermore, we had no opportunity to provide input to the report or address any deficiencies or inaccuracies.

The degree of rigour being employed in the assessments, in our view, was not adequate. Some data was chosen while other data was not, and the government didn't always provide a reason. We believe that the government should take all relevant peer-reviewed information into account throughout its assessment process and in its report.

It is our recommendation that assessment procedures and protocols be clearly defined and publicly available based on the guidance provided by the government's own frameworks. We're also recommending that notifiers, such as DuPont, should be provided with draft assessment reports. This would be consistent with the earlier recommendations identified by a multi-stakeholder consultation on the new substances program held in 2000. Regrettably, these were never implemented.

Our next perspective deals with the framework that we expected would be adhered to by the government. Clearly, the government needs to follow its own policies on transparency.

On slide six, our third perspective, it was our expectation that the assessments would meet internationally recognized standards for quality, particularly in this case, which focused on a complex and contentious substance for which control measures could be applied.

In the assessment of existing chemicals, it is normal practice to conduct a peer review to validate decisions. Usually a peer review is not warranted for new substance assessments, as most are quite routine; however, if the assessment decision could have broad implications commercially and internationally, a peer review process is vital to building confidence in the assessment outcome.

Let me define what a peer review process is, because I think there's been some confusion about that. A peer review is an objective process carried out by an arm's-length party, a process in which internationally recognized experts in the field review and comment on the scientific assessment. While the government consultations with various stakeholders are worthwhile, it's important to note that they do not constitute a peer review.

Our fourth perspective has to do with the guidance that we expected would be provided to companies such as DuPont, which submits new substance notifications that end up following a non-routine path. More procedural guidance is needed. For instance, contradictory guidance has been provided to DuPont in the past regarding whether a new substance notification may be withdrawn after it is submitted. Clarity is required when so much is at stake.

Our fifth perspective, at the top of slide seven, deals with the government's risk-management tools. Clearly, it was our expectation that these tools would achieve protection of the environment and human health. It has been our experience, however, that the use of these tools does not always result in the selection of the most effective and appropriate approach to protect the environment and human health. In our case study, the most draconian risk management tool, namely prohibition, was deemed appropriate, when in fact conditions would have been less onerous and more effective in protecting the environment and health.

It is our recommendation that the government adopt risk management tools that are proportionate to the manner and level of risk presented by a substance.

Our final expectation was that there would be an early formal mechanism within CEPA to appeal assessment decisions involving new substances; this was not the case, which is a major shortcoming. The first opportunity to formally protest the decision in our case study was the option to file a notice of objection, which came after the decision for regulation had already been made. At this late point the notifier is only able to file the notice of objection, and there is no apparent obligation that the government must act on the notice.

It is our recommendation that for complex cases the government should provide an appeal mechanism as a right, and at a much earlier stage in the process. Interestingly, this recommendation was already made during the multi-stakeholder consultations on the new substances program, although it has yet to be implemented. We believe that implementing this recommendation would promote an earlier review and resolution of the issues.

The last slide is a summary of our recommendations. The three I would view as most important are peer review, risk management procedures that are proportionate to the actual risk, and formalizing an early appeal mechanism.

I am confident that with Health Canada, Environment Canada, and DuPont working together, we will be able to resolve our particular case study appropriately. As we go forward, the proposed changes will improve future situations and enhance Canada's reputation globally.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, this concludes my presentation.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about our perspectives on CEPA and the new substances notification process.

I hope that my remarks reflect DuPont's longstanding commitment to the environment, human health, and sustainable development, as well as our willingness to work collaboratively with government and other stakeholders to achieve this objective.

Thank you.

9:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

Thank you, Ms. McKay.

I will now go on to Mr. Soule, please.

9:20 a.m.

Jack Soule Executive Director, Industry Coordinating Group for CEPA

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

My name is Jack Soule, and I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the committee today on behalf of the Industry Coordinating Group for CEPA, also known as the CEPA ICG. It's a network that was formed in the mid-1980s around the multi-stakeholder process, which was set up to create the original CEPA. It represents a broad cross-section of industry, and I've attached to your notes a list of the 24 various associations that are part of the CEPA ICG.

We get involved with Environment Canada and Health Canada on matters concerning new and existing substances. The CEPA ICG has participated most recently in the multi-stakeholder discussions that resulted in the revised new substances notification regulations and has also cooperated extensively with Environment Canada and Health Canada on the categorization and screening of the DSL program.

With regard to timelines for the assessment of new substances, we see that these are set out in the new substances notification regulations. They were revised somewhat through the multi-stakeholder consultations from those that were in the original regulations, in response to the experience of Environment Canada and Health Canada in meeting their requirements under the first period.

Some categories were shortened and some were lengthened, but the end result is a reasonable schedule, which I think works for both industry and the government.

With regard to existing substances, there are no prescribed timelines for their assessment, other than those on the priority substances list. This seems appropriate to us as industry, particularly for the categorized substances, for the following reason.

The amount of data available on the range of categorized substances is quite variable, as is the level of detail that will be needed to develop conclusions on these substances. Most substances in use in Canada are imported from other countries. We are not a major producer of chemicals, new chemicals, so a fair portion of the DSL substances are actually imported.

This also complicates the access of the basic data for pursuing this categorization and the screening part of the categorization, the screening of the DSL.

Many substances are also involved in international assessment programs. For example, together the U.S. high production volume challenge program under the EPA and the OECD/ICCA HPV program—that's the Organization for Environmental Cooperation and Development in cooperation with the International Council of Chemical Associations, which has another HPV program—are dealing with thousands of substances. The ICG believes that it is prudent to adapt our timing in order to utilize as much of their work as possible, rather than duplicate it.

The proposed plans of Environment and Health Canada to solicit input from stakeholders at several stages in this new assessment process for screening assessments should serve to expedite the process, as it will ensure that the government has the most recent and current data on which to base its final decision, thereby reducing major interventions on the final reports. We see this as a good improvement for the transparency of the process.

Assessments on substances that have broad international regulatory interest as well as international commercial implications should take these factors into consideration and allow for more extensive input. Many of these substances, which Canada will assess, will also be assessed by others, and we need to collaborate to achieve economy of efforts.

If an overall timeline for completing the screening assessments of categorized substances is being considered, the CEPA ICG would recommend using the SAICM target of 2020 as a guideline or goal, which Canada has agreed to, along with other global signatories.

It is important not to underestimate the scope and challenge of this program. Meeting the 2020 goal will depend so much on garnering international cooperation, which Canada can influence but not control, that this should not become a hard legislative requirement. We should be able to cooperate with the U.S. and their HPV program, but this cooperation may be somewhat constrained, as it has been for the exchange of data on new substances, because there's a lack of authorization for the EPA under TSCA to share confidential information in a confidential manner with other countries. So this has been a hang-up in working cooperatively

We should be able to cooperate with the European Union, but we don't know when REACH will be up and running, or how its overwhelming complexity will affect its operation, and whether their compensation arrangements for information will stymie the sharing of data.

With regard to management tools, the CEPA ICG believes the program to complete the screening assessments of the categorized substances is so significant an undertaking that there is a clear need for well-developed and consistent management tools that are publicly available. They will play a key role in the production of risk assessments that are credible through a process that is both transparent and predictable.

Several important and very helpful tools already exist as government policy documents. They are: A Framework for Federal Science & Technology Advice; Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Use of Science and Technology Advice in Government Decision Making; and A Framework for the Application of Precaution in Science-based Decision Making about Risk. Guidance documents for conducting screening assessments, currently under development by Environment Canada and Health Canada, will also provide significant assistance to all stakeholders.

In the interest of promoting transparency, predictability, and rigour in the screening assessment process, the CEPA ICG has developed a draft set of quality-assurance performance criteria that could serve for the comparison and evaluation of assessments that refer to the two framework documents noted above. Refinement will come through use and with the input from Environment Canada and Health Canada. With the potential for the issuing of considerable numbers of assessments impacting different sectors and different stakeholders, such a comparative measuring system is felt to be necessary.

Management tools that relate to the risk assessment process seem adequate to cover the gamut of eventualities. The new tool that was added in CEPA 1999, the significant new activity notices, has been used quite well in the new substances program but has yet to be employed for existing substances. It seems sufficiently flexible, however, to cover the range of needs between the ultimate control of prohibition and the voluntary approach of an environmental performance agreement.

In conclusion, the CEPA ICG believes the provisions of CEPA 1999 are adequate to handle the anticipated assessment program flowing from the categorization process. This will create significant demands, however, on the resources of both government and industry. If a deadline is felt to be needed, nothing earlier than 2020 should be considered, and this should be a goal rather than a requirement. The Canadian approach to evaluating our list of existing substances is practical and so far seems workable. The current need is for guidance and procedural documentation to help with the details of implementation, so industry can prepare itself for this major task.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the time of the committee.

9:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

Thank you very much, Mr. Soule.

Mr. Freeman.

9:30 a.m.

Aaron Freeman Director, Policy, Environmental Defence Canada

Actually, Dr. Khatter will be presenting on our behalf today. I'm just here for the questions.

9:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

Thank you.

9:30 a.m.

Dr. Kapil Khatter Canadian Environmental Law Association

Thanks again for the opportunity to present at committee.

Hugh Benevides couldn't make it, unfortunately, so I'll be presenting. Aaron, who is now the policy director at Environmental Defence, will be here for questions as well.

You should have with you three unstapled handouts in French and English of PollutionWatch slides. It's a complicated topic, trying to get through all the timelines, but we can't go too fast for the translators.

PollutionWatch has presented before and we've spoken before about timelines and about how there are stages of the assessment and management process that have no timelines at all. We feel that's a problem. There are stages of the assessment and management process where there are timelines, but often they are too lax. The categorization of the domestic substances list has shown us clearly that deadlines are an effective way of ensuring that substances are dealt with in a timely way. The deadline has allowed us to make the assessment of substances a priority and to make sure that we give them adequate attention and resources. We feel those kinds of timelines are important for the rest of the process as it moves forward.

Perhaps I can get you to turn to page 1. The first slide is our attempt at showing how the process works now, as written in the act. If you look in the first box, there are a lot of section numbers. Section 70 is industry's mandatory reporting of any data they find about a substance they're using or manufacturing that says it's toxic. Section 74 is the screening assessments of the domestic substance list. Section 75 is the review of any decision in another jurisdiction where a substance is deemed to be toxic and needs to be restricted. Subsection 76.(3) is where an individual citizen can nominate a substance to be assessed or put on the priority substances list.

You can see, for the first two stages, in general, there aren't any timelines. The caveat to that is if a substance, through one of these channels, is put on the priority substances list for full risk assessment. There is actually a timeline of five years, though that's extendable for another two years, so it's a very loose timeline of up to seven years.

Going through it, basically, there's no timeline to the first step, which is the publication of a proposed decision based on the assessment. There's no timeline, then, to the publication of the final decision. From that point, there are timelines. There is a period of two years before the publication in subsection 91.(1) of a proposed instrument or regulation, and then eighteen months to finalize that proposed regulation or instrument and publish it.

From that point, there are no legislative timelines in terms of implementation of the act. We talked, as well, in the past about cabinet involvement, and from subsection 77.(6) is the point where there is a recommendation to cabinet for an order in council to put it on schedule 1, and there is a further cabinet trip later on in order to approve the regulation.

I'm going to skip over the domestic substance list and talk about the non-domestic substances first, just because we feel that substances that have been categorized through this categorization screening process are a bit of a special case because there are a whole lot of substances all at once that need to be dealt with.

Perhaps I could get you to turn to page 2, which is our proposal for timelines for substances in general, for good timelines for the assessment and management of substances, leaving aside this chunk of substances that we need to deal with in terms of the domestic substances list. That would be section 70, section 75, subsection 76.(3), anything that's put on the priority substances list for those reasons.

What we've proposed is that the government have six months to do the screen risk assessment and come up with a proposed decision as to whether that substance is toxic and whether we need to move ahead in terms of regulating it, and that there be six months from that point to finalize that decision. That being said, there are all those times when we need more data and there needs to be a bit of an extension, so putting the substance on the priority substances list would allow a two-year extension to the process. What we're proposing is a two-year extension, as opposed to the five years, plus two years that it is now, and the possibility that it could take seven more years before a substance has a decision based on the assessment.

From that point, we feel the timelines that exist right now are too long. The first publication of a proposed instrument or regulation, as opposed to being two years, should be six months, and then another six months to finalize that instrument or regulation after the common period. Then we feel there needs to be a legislative timeline for ensuring that once a regulation or an instrument has been decided upon, it is implemented.

We've suggested eighteen months would be a reasonable time limit, a good maximum for us, acknowledging that different instruments in regulations will have different needs in terms of their timelines.

Finally, I'd like to turn to slide three. We've categorized the domestic substance list, and it's left us with approximately 4,000 substances to assess and potentially manage. Some of these, though, as Mr. Soule spoke about, will not be considered in use. They will automatically be set aside and not need to be assessed. There's also another category of substances we've left out that we don't think apply to this flow chart. Those are the substances that are persistent and bio-accumulative and inherently toxic--the PBITs, as we call them, which we think have the highest potential to cause problems, if not now then surely in the future. Our position is that those substances should be immediately scheduled as toxic and virtually eliminated, because the act says that anything that is a PBIT, that is CEPA-toxic, needs to be virtually eliminated.

Slide three: instead of the three-and-a-half-year total timeframe for regular substances, we feel there should be a little bit of slack given in terms of both the assessment and the development of a regulation and instrument. We recognize there are a lot of substances to deal with, and we'll need resources to deal with all these substances. The other thing in terms of this slide, in terms of this five-year timeline, the two-year assessment and five years in total, is we're really thinking of this in terms of the highest priority of substances out of the DSL. Out of that 4,000 we would say this would be a good timeline for about 600. Health Canada has already said they have about 100 they think are the highest-priority health substances. We would expect Environment Canada would be able to deal with 500 of their persistent or bio-accumulative substances within this timeframe.

The process is the same as I went over before for the non-domestic substance list except that instead of a six-month timeline for the screening assessments, we think, given the resources, the government should be able to deal with the first batch of these substances in eighteen months, and then take six months to finalize the publication of the decision. Again, for those rare cases where they feel the need to get data--and remember there's been seven years to collect data already--they can use the PSL, the priority substance list, as an extension. Likewise in terms of proposing a regulation or instrument, we feel having a year's extension for the domestic substance list would make sense.

That's the first 600. We expect there would be another batch or two of 600 besides the substances that are put aside. We expect and hope the government will be able to assess the first 600 in two years and then assess another 600 in two years and another 600 in two years, until we finish.

That's it. We hope this presentation was helpful. I know the timeline is complicated and there are two different streams--the domestic substance list and the non-domestic substance list.

We're happy to answer questions. Thanks.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

Thank you very much, Mr. Khatter.

Mr. Teeter.

9:35 a.m.

Michael Teeter Principal, Hillwatch Inc., As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Clerk, for inviting me today to talk about timelines and my experiences.

I'm here representing myself only, but I've had many years of experience working on CEPA for the salt industry, the fertilizer sector, and the treated wood sector; and as an adviser to some members of the ICG during the GHG debate.

I guess you might call me an industry lobbyist, but I don't really define myself that way. I'm always looking to find common ground between industry and government and other non-governmental organizations, and I hope my comments today will be taken in that light. I try my best to define the public interest in a way that's consistent with the interests of all stakeholders.

My theme here is that I think we should really focus first on what unites us rather than what divides us, and I think the structure of CEPA today is focused too much on those things that divide the stakeholders.

My assumption is that we're here to talk about timelines because we want the process to facilitate environmental management faster and more efficiently. In this respect, the question we are considering is whether we need to amend the timeline requirements in CEPA to accomplish this goal. Obviously some people would say yes to that question. I would say we don't need to, but we need to give the administrators of CEPA some new tools to get to environmental actions faster. So I'm going to talk a little bit about those things I recommend.

The PSL process for road salts and ammonia has been about eight years in discussion, but the two assessments I was deeply involved in, particularly on road salts, were really structured on the need from an industry perspective to stigmatize the product as toxic, and to be placed on schedule 1 of CEPA before any positive environmental actions were taken. With this approach there's an implicit structure that completely divides the stakeholders.

First, by designating the toxic label there's an inherent assumption that product use should be minimized or avoided, and that substitutes are better. This might not even be true, and in the case of road salts it's absolutely not. Substitutes haven't even been assessed, and where they have been assessed they're deemed to be worse than the road salts themselves. When a product is attacked like that, the business is impacted, and shareholder interest demands that defensive actions be taken.

Second, I think the process is founded on controversy and adversarial structures, as opposed to working-together structures, because there are countless numbers of people involved in the process in an effort to try to list something as toxic. In other words, they define their goal in government as, “Put it on the list; I've achieved my ends.” What do those ends have to do with fixing the environment?

People spend years of their lives defining their mission as getting a substance on schedule 1. Meanwhile, all those years and all those resources are expended on that and nothing's happening for the environment. So this is just about conflict; it's not about doing anything for the environment.

Unlike what people may think or be told, industry has a direct interest in investing in risk management and good management practices. It's simply good for business, particularly in today's environment--no pun intended--when clearly the environment is being seen by the public as an increasingly important issue. So we all have common interests here.

Assuming we all want to invest in positive environmental actions faster and with more enthusiasm, I would recommend the following. Instead of focusing the debate on substances or products, focus on how those products are used. In other words, put the debate into context. People can more readily agree on this discussion.

What would you have to do to the statute if that were your intent? You might have to make a slight adjustment to the section 3 definition of substance.

The other recommendation I'd make is start the risk management discussions as soon as the assessment has begun. You might find a surprisingly large amount of consensus already about what needs to be done now in the context of managing the environment, the substance in the environment, or the context that is being used. So those resources that are now expended on fighting each other could instead be used to actually get into environmental actions faster. I don't think there's any statutory change required in order to start a two-track process where you begin the risk management discussions as the risk assessment is taking place.

Put more rigour into the scientific assessment process, not less. Bad science should never be used to justify environmental actions. Unfortunately, when you're on strict timelines sometimes that happens because the objective of the officials is to get the substance on a list. They define their achievements on that basis. Sometimes bad science drives that because they want to get there faster, but they're doing nothing for the environment while all that pain and suffering is going on. I'm saying introduce a mandatory independent peer review structure. We've made that recommendation before. In my opinion, sound science is not the thing that holds us back from consensus in environmental actions. You'd have to add a clause to the statute to require mandatory peer review in order to achieve this recommendation.

We've said this before, and we'll say it again: we think there should be another listing category in CEPA for substances that simply do not belong on schedule 1, substances that are clearly not toxic in the ordinary sense. Again, I think that if this were put into the statute you'd reach conclusions faster and consensus risk management actions would start more quickly. If you were going to follow this recommendation you'd probably have to add another schedule to CEPA, schedule 8, and I'd say call it “other”, as it doesn't need a name.

The last thing is that the ability to regulate is often as effective as regulation itself. The process itself, because Environment Canada or Health Canada is taking action either through the DSL or PSL process, can be a tremendous catalyst to drive effective risk management. People want to get into solutions, they want to solve the problem, and they want to invest in the environment. That's a given.

Once risk management is in place the whole discussion on listing, if there's a stigma issue or anything, can actually be left unanswered. It doesn't need to be answered right away, as long as the environmental actions are being taken to the satisfaction of the regulators. It's only necessary to get into the whole debate on whether it's listed on schedule 1--or schedule 8 if you took my recommendations, if regulation is required.

Is the answer to society thousands and thousands of substance-based regulations? I don't think so. I think the stakeholders have to invest in environmental management. There aren't enough regulators in this country to actually enforce those kinds of regulations. The end game here is to get everybody to invest in environmental management, not to invest in regulations.

I think if you were to adopt these perspectives, although there are some statutory issues that I'm recommending, more often than not what we're talking about here is a culture change. It's a culture change inside government and how it works. It's just simply saying let's get to consensus actions faster, let's invest in the environment faster, let's work together, and let's not talk about what divides us.

I look forward to participating in the debate on specific timelines.

Thank you.

9:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

Thank you, Mr. Teeter.

I certainly want to congratulate the panel. You were all under your time.

I'm going to ask the members if they can also try to be as good as this panel has been so that we can get through this and have a little time at the end for several items we need to deal with.

We'll begin with Mr. Godfrey. I believe Mr. Silva will share your ten minutes.

9:45 a.m.


John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

I'd appreciate it, because of my enthusiasm for the subject, if you'd give me a look at the five-minute mark, Mr. Chair.

Welcome, everybody.

Today we're looking at the specific issue of timelines, but many other things come into consideration, and it seems to me that the issue of timelines allows us to distinguish the various challenges we're facing. For the question I want to ask, I'm open to your decision among yourselves as to who is going to answer it.

Taking timelines is one of the challenges. To what degree do we need legislative change, or will regulation change do it? Or are we really saying we need legislative power because we're frustrated that departments haven't applied enough resources to the problem and they could actually use the existing timeline structure? With the timelines, they're actually a maximum, but nothing would prevent the department from going faster if they wish to, I assume. They could, actually, if they had the resources. So that's the third issue. Then the fourth issue is of course political will.

So what I'm trying to decode from this conversation--and I have read the Lung Association's presentation, although I wasn't here for it--is to what extent are we trying to use legislative change out of frustration at the other parts? Is it because we simply feel that even as written we're not getting there because there haven't been enough resources or enough political will, and if there were enough resources and enough political will we wouldn't need to be pushing so hard in typing up the timelines? Maybe I'll start with those with Dr. Khatter.

9:50 a.m.

Director, Policy, Environmental Defence Canada

Aaron Freeman

Actually, could I respond?

You've asked three questions, but I actually think you've asked one, and it's the question of political will. I know that there's been significant discussion about political will around the table in this committee throughout these hearings. I think that what we talk about when we talk about political will has to flow from the act. The origin of political will flows from the act, because if there is a timeline in the act.... And we saw this with the categorization exercise; we have arguably the most effective part of this act, the one we can all point to and say this is where Canada is a leader, in categorization. The reason we've accomplished that is because there is a timeline. There is a deadline in the act that within seven years of the passage of CEPA in 1999, September 14 of this year, those 23,000 substances had to be categorized. We had to figure out which the most serious substances were.

We think that if you apply this to other stages of the process, we'll get to the action stage that much quicker so that we're not just putting substances in categories, we're actually doing something about the most serious ones. I think the history of this, and other environmental legislation in this country, shows that when we don't have something mandatory in the act that requires the government to make a decision by a certain timeframe, assessments end up sitting on the shelf and we don't end up taking action in a timely way.

The other thing that timelines affect, as you mentioned, is resources. Environment Canada and Health Canada had the resources to complete that process--the budget resources, the personnel resources--because it was a mandatory requirement on the government.

9:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

Mr. Godfrey, maybe you want to direct your question to someone else.

9:50 a.m.


John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

I'm just wondering if anybody was going to make a counter....

Mr. Teeter, I see.

9:50 a.m.

Principal, Hillwatch Inc., As an Individual

Michael Teeter

I'd like to put this in a broader context.

I've been reading the papers a lot lately, and they've been very hard on past governments and present governments for spending a lot of time and money talking about things and not doing enough? We should put this into context here. I'm not sure that putting more timelines into the statute is really going to be the answer. There are quite a few timelines in there already.

What we're looking for here, I think, and what the public is looking for, is an attitudinal change, a culture change in the way the statute is administered. I've suggested some small changes that I think could be made in the statute to facilitate that change. But at the end of the day what we should all be doing is investing in environmental management. We shouldn't be fighting each other over the labels or timelines or anything. We should be investing.

9:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Bob Mills

Go ahead, Mr. Silva.

9:50 a.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses for coming forward. I enjoyed their presentations. I had an opportunity, as well, to meet Mr. Kenneth Maybee yesterday in my office. So thank you very much.

I enjoyed the presentations. I thought some of the principles laid out by DuPont Canada were very good principles. I think probably all of us could agree on that.

Dr. Khatter, you probably listened to the presentation, as well, by Mrs. McKay and those principles she talked about with respect to peer review. How are they going to be managed within certain timeline proposals that you had in your presentation? All of us agree that timelines are an issue. We don't want an open-ended process of assessment, especially if there's no political will from the government. It can become quite dangerous. So we want to make sure that there are certain measurements in place.

When you look at things like sound and peer-reviewed science as a basis for decision-making, transparency, which I think is very important, effective review and update of decisions, and clear communications, I thought these were things that need to be outlined again. How do you sort of measure that within your proposals? Can it be done?

9:55 a.m.

Canadian Environmental Law Association

Dr. Kapil Khatter

Thanks for your question.

We think it can be done, that the rigour of the process can be maintained within the timelines we've suggested. Some of the delays are not because of the inability to do a proper science review or to gather information in a timely way or to have an adequate peer review, but they are, for instance, because of the fact that this needs to go to cabinet and it sits on a desk there because there are no timelines to make it come back on time.

When you divide the two different processes into the domestic substances list and the regular process.... We're looking at six months for the regular process and we're talking about one substance at a time. So when a substance gets nominated by a citizen, they now have six months to do an assessment of just one substance.

When you're looking at the domestic substances list and you're talking about a batch, we're going to need more resources. The government is committed to dealing with those substances, but we have to remember that part of the categorization process has been to gather a huge amount of information. Along with figuring out whether something's persistent or biocumulative, they've already gathered a lot of information about what kinds of health problems or what kinds of environmental problems these substances may cause and have asked industry for data. So we're way ahead of the game in terms of those substances, and that's why we feel that batches of substances, through the domestic substances list, can be done in a credible and scientific way within the timelines we've suggested.

9:55 a.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Freeman put it in the context of political will, as opposed to timelines, which I thought was quite interesting, because I guess time will tell whether there's political will or not. Do you see as a major problem, as an obstacle at this moment, that there isn't the political will to move forward with timelines?

9:55 a.m.

Director, Policy, Environmental Defence Canada

Aaron Freeman

Well, I guess I would say that the timelines are an expression of political will and that political will will flow from those timelines, and so will the resources. The timelines we've proposed assume that the government will put more resources into the assessment and management processes. You could have shorter timelines than the ones we've proposed, but that would require more resources for Environment Canada and Health Canada to do the job. I think, again, that the history of this and other environmental statutes shows that if there's a requirement there, the government is up to the task of meeting that legal timeline. But it is a question of resources.

This notion of political will I don't see as a simple..... I make a distinction between political will and political whim. If we're talking about political will, that has to flow from the act. If we don't have a timeline, then we're relying on political whim. Maybe that will be there and maybe it won't, and maybe it will change over time. But if we actually want to get the job done, there has to be, I think, a legal requirement to do it.

9:55 a.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

How do you make sure that we can expedite these timelines?

9:55 a.m.

Director, Policy, Environmental Defence Canada

Aaron Freeman

How do we...?