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ARCHIVED - CEPA Annual Report for the Period April 1995 to March 1996

Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is "an Act respecting the protection of the environment and human life and health". CEPA includes provisions dealing with toxic substances, nutrients, the environmental effect of the operations of federal departments, boards and other entities, the protection of the environment on federal land, international air pollution, ocean dumping, environmental research, guidelines and codes of practice, as well as agreements with provinces and territories.

CEPA's comprehensive mandate covers toxic substances throughout the ecosystem and allows control at any stage of a product's life cycle from development and manufacture to transportation and ultimate disposal. An important focus is prevention - averting environmental problems before they occur. Preventive measures include strong regulations and enforcement mechanisms; non-regulatory approaches, such as environmental guidelines, codes of practice and incentives for industry; as well as the development and transfer of pollution measurement and control technologies.

Through CEPA, the federal government recognizes and encourages the shared stewardship of the environment with business, consumers and other levels of government, both nationally and internationally. Environment Canada and Health Canada jointly develop CEPA regulations and guidelines, with Environment Canada administering the Act on behalf of the federal government.

CEPA Review and Renewal

Section 139 of CEPA calls for a Parliamentary Review of the Act within five years of the enactment of the legislation. In June, 1993, that review was deferred by the Standing Committee on Environment until after the federal election and, on June 10, 1994, the final motion referring CEPA to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for review was adopted by the House of Commons.

The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development conducted an extensive review of CEPA and tabled its report on June 20, 1995. The Standing Committee's Report recommended numerous improvements in the management of toxic substances; the control of wastes, including those disposed at sea; environmental soundness of federal operations; and enforcement of the Act. It also indicated important areas for conceptual change for the future. These visionary elements included many important recommendations concerning pollution prevention, national standards and public participation. The Committee also recommended that CEPA be used to contribute to sustainable development and the adoption of guiding principles including pollution prevention, the ecosystem approach, biodiversity, the precautionary principle and user/producer responsibility.

The Government tabled its Response to the Report of the Standing Committee with the Clerk of the House of Commons on December 14, 1995. This Response details how the Government intends to deal with the Committee's recommendations in a renewed CEPA. It proposed numerous improvements to the Act to ensure that CEPA is forward-looking legislation contributing to sustainable development in Canada. It also proposed that pollution prevention, the ecosystem approach, biodiversity, science and the precautionary principle, user/producer responsibility, economic responsibility and intergovernmental cooperation provide the philosophical basis of the Act. Overall, it proposed to shift the emphasis of the Act to pollution prevention, to bring Canada into line with countries which are already reaping the economic benefits of clean, competitive, innovative industries. National standards and a broader enforcement capability were also proposed to provide all Canadians with an equal level of environmental protection. A number of measures in relation to fuels, wastes, emergencies and government operations were proposed to strengthen the manner in which they are dealt with under CEPA. The Government Response also contained proposals to provide Canadians greater access to information and an enhanced ability to influence government. As well, proposals to reformulate the toxic substances provisions included a system for categorization and screening of existing substances to identify priorities for assessment or for preventative or control action.

The Government's proposal for a renewed CEPA was made available for a 90-day public review which ended in March 1996. During that period, over 400 responses were received.

Elements for a revitalized CEPA are now being developed. Among other provisions, the principle of pollution prevention will be explicitly incorporated into the renewed statute as well as public participation rights. The Government will also further build on partnerships with all sectors of society, creatively use economic instruments and voluntary initiatives, set out clear policies, and enact good regulations. Through these strategies, the Government will give Canadians legislation that is flexible and that has the tools needed to get on with the job of environmental protection.

The Government intends to have a revised Statute before the House of Commons for consideration during the 1996-97 fiscal year.

Sharing Our Responsibility for the Environment

Environment Canada supports the principle that protection and conservation of the environment are shared responsibilities among all Canadians and by all jurisdictions. The Department continues to reaffirm the importance of public consultation in the design of its policies, in the development of its programs and in the delivery of its services. Forging partnerships is a basic way of doing business at Environment Canada.

CEPA 's Channels for Cooperative Action

CEPA provides opportunities for governments and experts in relevant disciplines to consult and to coordinate their efforts. Mechanisms for such consultation and coordination include advisory panels, the Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee and its working groups, agreements with the provinces and territories and cooperative initiatives with interested groups or individuals.

Advisory Panels

CEPA allows for the appointment of advisory panels whose members can be drawn from provincial and territorial governments, industry, labour, environmental and health organizations and other interested groups. The Expert Advisory Panel appointed by the Ministers of Environment and Health in December 1994 to advise them on CEPA's second Priority Substances List (PSL 2), submitted its recommendations for PSL 2 to the Ministers in October 1995.

Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee (FPAC)

The CEPA FPAC is composed of provincial and territorial governments as well as Environment Canada and Health Canada representatives. Committee members work cooperatively to achieve early and effective consultation on environmental protection and toxic substances management initiatives. FPAC is a forum for sharing information between levels of government for more effective protection of the environment.

In the 1995-96 fiscal year, FPAC has been involved in regular meetings and conference calls pertaining to the review of CEPA. It provided an open line of communication for members, at the various stages of development of the Government Response on a renewed CEPA, as well as informing members at each step along the critical path for CEPA's review.

FPAC has also been involved in the many proposals of the Strategic Options Process (SOP) which aims to respond effectively to environmental issues linked to substances identified as toxic under CEPA through the Priority Assessment Process. FPAC takes part in SOP consultations, ensuring that an open and transparent accountability framework is maintained.

FPAC provided provincial and territorial views on the proposed options for lead risk reduction by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries, in order to prepare a federal position for the February 1996 OECD Environment Ministers meeting.

FPAC also dealt with a number of other issues throughout the year, including the Interim Order to Amend the PCB Waste Export Regulations, which came into effect in November 1995; the PSL 2; Chlorinated Municipal Effluents; and the Global Programme of Action on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities.

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