It's a pleasure to be here, Madam Chair.
Good morning to the members of the committee and guests. My name is Amardeep Khosla, and I am the executive director of the Industry Coordinating Group for CEPA, or ICG for short. I thank you for this opportunity to address the committee on aspects of CEPA as you and the government consider the path forward for this important and, we think, remarkably successful legislation.
By way of introduction, as we've not spoken to you before, the ICG has existed for about 30 years. It comprises about 25 industry sectors—the numbers vary from year to year—all of whom are affected by the chemicals-related provisions of CEPA and its regulations, policies, and activities. I will, as a result, focus in my later remarks mainly on the chemicals management plan, or CMP, and the relevant provisions of CEPA—so not all of CEPA.
The ICG is an industry forum for regulatory and technical discussion on matters related to CEPA's regulatory regime regarding substances management. We have several standing meetings a year, additional activities for our focused subcommittees, and biannual meetings with government officials to discuss implementation of the program.
The CMP is a very broad topic, as you know, but I will give you two examples of our work just to give a sense of what we do. We work with officials to find ways to reduce the considerable time and resources companies need to expend in order to track and report on potentially notifiable substances, which are imported, manufactured, or used in Canada, or products containing those substances. As you can appreciate, the effort magnifies as you start to include the products. These are sometimes subject to multiple CEPA requirements, which require being brought together. We work with Canadian and U.S. officials via the binational RCC, the regulatory cooperation council, work plan to identify opportunities for developing common approaches going forward for certain regulatory reporting requirements, called SNAcs and SNURs, relating to the new uses of chemical substances.
The ICG also participates in the national stakeholder advisory council for the CMP. We hold a recurring CEPA update conference, which reaches out to a much wider cross-section of industry. We have 25 associations, and more people come to the conference. Through that we help to build awareness and compliance.
The ICG complements, but does not replace, the functions of our member associations. We do not advocate on behalf of a particular chemical or a group of chemicals, but we do identify and communicate widely held views and concerns with respect to science policy directions or CMP design and implementation. We provide the government with a necessary understanding of the practical impacts of the CMP and CEPA on industry and help make its implementation more efficient and compatible with our main trading commitments, while still achieving environmental goals.
With that as an introduction, let me turn to our main views on CEPA in review and, while doing so, seek to add to what you've already heard from several ICG members, including the Chemistry Industry Association, the Consumer Specialty Products Association, the Mining Association of Canada, and the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. I will focus these remarks on key factors that we think have been cornerstones of the CMP's remarkable success and that we believe should be maintained in order for that success to continue. All of these factors work together and are not easily separated from each other without risking, we think, the success of the program.
First and foremost, CMP and CEPA are risk-based. This means decisions are made taking both hazards and likely exposures into account, thereby enabling a more targeted and considered appraisal of what is required to protect the environment and human health than can be achieved from a purely hazard-based approach. This allows limited resources in both government and industry to be used where they are most needed, and not wasted where they're not needed.
To illustrate by way of a trivial example, a large and sharp knife is always a hazard, but we do not control access to kitchen knives by chefs. How a knife is used and under what circumstances, and the practical interventions that might be needed to assure safe use, are essential considerations in any sensible management plan.
Second, CEPA and the CMP set scientifically credible priorities. The government does first what is judged, following consultation, to be most important, and then moves to the next level. These priorities take into account hazard characteristics, such as persistence, bio-accumulation, inherent toxicity, and exposure.
The CMP determined that about 4,300 of the 23,000 chemicals in commerce warranted assessment. However, it is worth noting, because this has come up in prior discussion at the committee, that of the 19,000 that were set aside as not warranting assessment, any of them can be considered again if relevant new information emerges. Of the 4,300, over 2,700 have now been assessed, and the remainder are on track to be assessed by 2020. This is a remarkable achievement. No other country even comes close.
Third, CEPA and the CMP set ambitious yet achievable timelines and transparently communicate progress. As the CMP progresses towards its goals, it also must appropriately employ targeted communications to ensure that its success is recognized by the public.
To continue to deliver, the CMP must continue to be seen as a productive investment of scarce societal resources. These have been quite substantial. For the government alone, it is $100 million a year over 10 years, and for industry I would imagine the number is greater. We don't track it.
Fourth, CEPA and the CMP are principled, yet also appropriately flexible. I am in complete agreement with Dr. Diamond's comments on this. CEPA defines certain tools processes, and principles that guide their application, including the consideration of precaution and the weight of evidence within a risk-based context, and the setting of fixed timelines within which certain critical activities must occur.
Importantly, CEPA also allows important discretion to tailor CMP program elements to suit the need of the task at hand. Some examples are the consideration of vulnerable populations when doing certain assessments, which has been built into some assessments; the consideration of cumulative assessment, where it can be done, to sufficiently similar substances; the recently published five-element assessment framework that the departments are using, which could free up technical resources for those types of assessments that require the most time and effort; or the tailored approach to the collection of information that the CMP has used when executing surveys under section 71.
All of these areas have evolved with the CMP. They have worked with stakeholders, including the ICG, learned from their past activities, and anticipated future needs. They were enabled by CEPA, yet excessive prescription in the act would almost certainly have prevented such an evolution, for the reasons Dr. Diamond outlined. You can't freeze science, common sense, and learning.
The act is static, until it is reviewed, which you are doing. Science is not.
The CMP also has brought together certain authorities under CEPA to create a framework that will allow decisions on certain substances to potentially be reviewed in Canada based on the consideration of new information. This might include such things as new toxicity studies, changes in exposure or use, or new information provided by assessments or management decisions in other key jurisdictions around the world.
Finally, the public credibility of CMP actions is enhanced by placing the responsibility for risk-assessment, and risk management where necessary with the government, and yet also imposing important responsibilities on industry. Government makes the risk assessment decisions based on science, and it considers information from industry and other sources. I would like to stress that government adopts a more conservative approach in assessments when it has less information from industry. It is very much in industry's interest to provide information; otherwise, the precautionary approach that's built into CEPA is brought into play. Where industry does not provide information, the likelihood of a toxic conclusion is greater. Similarly, after consultation with stakeholders, the government makes the necessary risk-management decisions when a substance is assessed as toxic, but it's industry that must integrate those control measures into its existing protective measures, and that integration is a complicated discussion.
To say that CMP is successful, and to point to the elements in CEPA and the CMP that we consider essential to success, is not to suggest that they're perfect and that they cannot be improved. I've already pointed to several improvements in the CMP that officials have made, and we have been part of the consultations on those, but more are no doubt possible.
The ICG members have taken note of the paper recently submitted to you by the departments as well as suggestions made by others who have appeared before the committee. While the time to consider all of these is quite short, we are committed to considering them further over the summer.
Our next update conference, which will reach a wider group of people, is scheduled for September in Toronto, and it may be able to help us broaden our discussion. While the ICG membership is broad, the conference is broader. As a result, we may have additional comments to provide for your future consideration. We trust you will be open to receiving them.
Thank you for allowing us to appear before you today.