Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to rise this evening. Actually, this is my third time in the past week that I am here at this late hour speaking to Canadians about issues that are important to them. Indeed, as the former chair of the Standing Committee on the Environment, it is great to be able to speak to the House about the important work being undertaken by the government, work that has a real impact on the health of all Canadians and the environment in which we live.
As everyone knows, Environment Canada is a regulatory department. As one of the federal government's most active regulators, Environment Canada has wide-ranging regulatory powers. In fact, the department is responsible for more than a dozen statutes and 80 regulations in a number of areas, including controlling the level of toxic substances in commercial products and protecting migratory birds and species at risk.
Although Environment Canada's strong regulatory performance goes uncontested given these realities, it is necessary for the department to aim for progressively higher levels of regulatory excellence. Changes to the regulatory processes will be a key component in enabling the department to achieve its goals for all Canadians. To this end, the department's next steps in improving regulatory measures involves streamlining and increasing the efficiency and transparency of its regulatory processes so they can be more efficient and effective.
While these are significant aims, there are broader, practical considerations as well, especially given the impact that environmental rules and standards have on our economy. We have to uphold these high standards at the same time as we ensure Canadian businesses hold their own in an intensely competitive global marketplace.
Given the key role that first-class environmental regulations play in a well-functioning economy, it is easy to understand why striving for regulatory excellence is so important. The commitment to regulatory excellence is perhaps best demonstrated through the internationally recognized chemicals management plan. Launched in 2006 as a combined effort of Environment Canada and Health Canada, the chemicals management plan has elevated Canada to the position of world leader in addressing threats to the safety and security of Canadians for new and existing chemical substances.
Many of the chemicals reviewed under the chemicals management plan are pervasive in the everyday lives of Canadians. They range from chemicals used in various industrial sectors, including fuels, energy, pulp and paper, household products, children's toys and in food. Bisphenol A is a well-known example. Here is a case where a comprehensive series of measures have been put in place starting with banning its use in baby bottles. This was followed by controls to limit the release of industrial effluents to water and the implementation to research and monitoring programs to determine if further action is required. In addition, the chemicals management plan is a predictable science-based regime that provides regulatory certainty for business.
Canada is also using its research and monitoring data together with our regulatory experience to provide international leadership in chemicals management. For example, last summer, Canada hosted the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant in Halifax. That brought together several hundred researchers from around the world and showcased the results of Canada's work in this field. In particular, this science has identified that over 95% of mercury, a potent neurotoxin that is particularly harmful to pregnant women and children, is coming from other countries and accumulating in Canada's north.
Canada's science is informing UN negotiations for a mercury treaty aimed toward limiting atmospheric emissions from these countries and, thus, protecting Canadians and our environment. It is also informing the international community on the progress that has been made in managing persistent organic pollutants, such as PCBs.
Together, over the past five years, Environment Canada and Health Canada have made great strides in a wide range of chemical risk assessments, regulatory activities, monitoring and research. That work must and will proceed.
In 2011, the government announced $500 million over five years to ensure the significant work on chemicals, which we began back in 2006, continues at full speed. We have made solid progress under the chemicals management plan in addressing a significant portion of the chemicals that are believed to be in commerce and that have been identified as having potential risks to human health or the environment. We have now worked through the assessment of about 1,100 chemicals on that list and will tackle close to 1,500 over the next five years. We will also ensure that new harmful chemicals do not enter the Canadian market.
The chemicals management plan exemplifies many of the hallmarks of a world-class regulatory system. It is a transparent regulatory program that provides for stakeholder participation and is responsive to the growing body of new science in this field. Last year, for example, stakeholders asked for reconsideration of one of our regulatory decisions on the basis of new science. A board of review was established composed of a panel of experts in this area and they examined new information, including studies carried out by Environment Canada. The board found that the substance did not pose a danger to the environment and, as such, the department was able to conclude that the substance was not toxic and regulatory control measures were not required.
Another strength of the chemicals management plan is the government's ongoing commitment to consult and share information with stakeholders and the public at key stages throughout the regulatory process.
Since 2006, about $400 million have been spent by Environment Canada and Health Canada to ensure that the health of Canadians and their environment is protected, which is a key priority. We are determined to ensure that existing chemicals used in our homes, businesses and public spaces are properly managed and that the risks to Canadians are minimized. We are equally determined to keep close tabs on any and all new chemicals that enter the market.
There is no question that protecting the health of Canadians and their environment is a key priority. This priority is clearly reflected through the funding of the next phases of the chemical management plan.
Moving forward, I am confident that Environment Canada and the entire department will continue to regulate in a manner that is evidence-based, efficient, effective, transparent and adaptable, firmly establishing itself as a world-class regulator.
I have a couple of questions for the parliamentary secretary.
First, how can the government say that it is a world leader in chemicals management when Canadians and the environment are still exposed to harmful chemicals?