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ARCHIVED - CEPA - Annual Report for the Period April 1993 to March 1994

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." When CEPA was created in 1988, the government brought together, in a comprehensive piece of legislation, environmental provisions of several other statutes administered by Environment Canada. Those provisions include those dealing with toxic substances, nutrients, ocean dumping, environmental research, guidelines and codes of practice as well as agreements with provinces and territories. Other Acts which, with CEPA, protect the Canadian environment include those preserving our heritage, parks, wildlife, aquatic life, natural resources and threatened regions.

CEPA's comprehensive mandate covers toxic substances throughout the ecosystem and may control any stage of a product's life cycle, from development and manufacture to transportation and disposal. Its primary 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 with 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 businesses, consumers and other levels of government, both nationally and internationally. Environment Canada and Health Canada develop CEPA regulations and guidelines, and Environment Canada administers the Act on behalf of the federal government.

Reviewing CEPA

Section 139 of CEPA calls for a Parliamentary Review of the Act within five years of the enactment of the legislation. In June 1993, a motion to refer CEPA to committee for review was brought before the House of Commons. In light of the upcoming general election, however, the Standing Committee on Environment deferred the Review. After the election, another motion will be brought before the House during 1994.

In anticipation of the Review, Environment Canada identified some of the issues that may face the Committee. The scope and significance of the issues demanded that a dedicated team be formed, and the CEPA Office was formed in January 1994. The first task was to develop a paper titled "An Overview of the Issues," which will be tabled in the House. Separate papers, to be published during the summer of 1994, will elaborate on the issues contained in this document.

CEPA Evaluation

In 1993-94, the fifth year after the legislation was promulgated, the Evaluation Branch of Environment Canada commissioned an independent consultant, Resource Futures International, to review the Act. The resulting report, Evaluation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA): Final Report, on CEPA's effectiveness, impacts and alternatives will form an integral part of the Department's presentation at the Parliamentary Review.

In general, the report concluded that CEPA helps the federal government assert national leadership in environmental protection, particularly in the responsible management of toxic substances.

The report also showed, however, that CEPA's implementation has been hampered by the patchwork of regulations and enforcement schemes that cover toxics issues under federal jurisdiction, and that the Act has failed to separate effectively risk assessment from risk management. In addition, the report commented on the limitations of a narrowly interpreted substance-by-substance approach to environmental protection, the overly strict criteria for equivalency agreements, the absence of an administrative penalty scheme, and the inadequate use of the Act's power to regulate federal activities.

Sharing our Responsibility for the Environment

Environment Canada strongly supports the principle of all Canadians sharing responsibility for the environment. By involving the public in the design of its policies, development of its programs and delivery of its services, Environment Canada has reaffirmed the importance of public consultation and partnership, enabling Canadians to make more informed environmental decisions.

CEPA is just one of many tools available to Environment Canada to help protect the environment. While this report deals solely with programs directly related to CEPA, there are many programs that help CEPA prevent pollution or protect the environment, often in cooperation with the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). These include the National Contaminated Sites Remediation Program, the NOx/VOC Management Plan and Environmental Citizenship, as well as programs that deal with CFC education, pollution prevention and many voluntary actions taken by industry.

CEPA's Channels for Cooperative Action

Included in CEPA's structure are opportunities for governments and experts in relevant disciplines to consult and to coordinate their efforts. Mechanisms for this consultation and coordination include advisory panels, the Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee and its working groups, and agreements with the provinces and territories.

Advisory Panels

The Ministers of the Environment and Health appoint experts from interest groups, industry and the academic community to advisory panels. One of these, the Priority Substances Advisory Panel, advised the Ministers on CEPA's first Priority Substances List (PSL1) in 1988-89. The list identified 44 potentially toxic substances that most urgently require assessment.

The Government will appoint an Advisory Panel in late 1994 to recommend inclusions in a revised Priority Substances List (PSL2). This list will then be published and revised on a continuing basis every three years.

Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee

To work toward nationally consistent environmental standards, representatives from Environment Canada, Health Canada, and each of the provinces and territories comprise the Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee (FPAC). This group ensures that the federal and provincial governments consult with each other in taking action to protect the environment from the effects of toxic substances.

At its April 1993 meeting, FPAC identified the following as priority areas for this fiscal year:

  • the CEPA Parliamentary Review;
  • a national approach to regulating wastewater effluents;
  • aboriginal lands; and
  • the first and second Priority Substances Lists (PSL1 and PSL2).

The Committee dealt with these priorities actively during the year. As the findings for PSL1 assessments became available, they were regularly discussed by the Committee prior to the approval and release of the assessments. The Committee was consulted on the process for selecting substances to be included on PSL2 and on the means to ensure provincial participation on the Ministers' Expert Advisory Committee.

On an ongoing basis, FPAC was also consulted on a variety of regulatory initiatives.

The Federal-Provincial Working Group on Controls Harmonization (Ozone-Depleting Substances)

The Federal-Provincial Working Group on Controls Harmonization, an organization created by FPAC, is working toward a coordinated national strategy to eliminate ozone-depleting substances in Canada. It now reports directly to the National Air Issues Coordinating Committee as a formal task group, rather than to FPAC. It encourages regulatory consistency and information exchange among all levels of government.

The National Action Plan for the Recovery, Recycling and Reclamation of CFCs, which was prepared by the working group, will minimize emissions from existing equipment, reduce the demand for new CFCs by managing the existing supply, and maintain an adequate amount of CFCs for essential uses after CFCs are phased out. Canada's Environment Ministers consider CFC recovery and recycling a high priority.

The working group is also addressing the management of halons and other ozone-depleting substances. It aims to achieve a consistent regulatory approach across Canada. The group is also considering the need for eventual destruction of surplus ozone-depleting substances and the use of economic instruments in ozone layer protection programs.

The Federal-Provincial Working Group on Air Quality Guidelines and Objectives

Over the past year, the Federal-Provincial Working Group on Air Quality Guidelines and Objectives continued to develop several air quality objectives. This working group is co-chaired by Environment Canada and Health Canada. The objectives under review for "maximum desirable, acceptable and tolerable concentrations" include nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, carbon monoxide and total reduced sulphur. The group agreed to place a higher priority on developing an air quality objective for fine particulate matter.

In association with the NOx/VOC Management Plan Science Program, the group is also developing recommendations for revising ground-level ozone objectives for the protection of health and vegetation.

Agreements with the Provinces and Territories

Under Section 34(6) and Section 98, the federal government has the option to enter into equivalency and administrative agreements with the provinces and territories as part of CEPA's legislative framework. Once implemented, these agreements will be invaluable tools for federal and provincial governments to work toward achieving common goals on mutually acceptable terms. They will also reduce overlapping federal and provincial initiatives and provide a single government window to industry. At the same time, they will ensure that environmental standards remain consistent.

During the 1993-94 fiscal year, the federal and provincial governments made significant progress in negotiating a number of agreements. While none had been signed by March 31, 1994, the commitment to reaching agreements, demonstrated by both levels of government, will lead to a number of agreements being signed in 1994-95.

Administrative Agreements

Administrative agreements are "work-sharing" partnerships that allow federal and provincial governments to share the work of administering regulations. They can cover such activities as inspection, enforcement, monitoring and reporting, but do not release or limit any of the parties from their respective responsibilities. Under an administrative agreement, the federal government remains accountable to the Canadian people and must report annually to Parliament on the agreement.

Over the past year, the federal government has worked closely with most provinces to develop draft administrative agreements. These range from general administrative agreements to agreements that concentrate on specific industrial sectors, such as the pulp-and-paper industry. Negotiations for several of these agreements are near successful completion. The first scheduled for signature is a pulp and paper agreement with Quebec in May 1994.

Equivalency Agreements

Equivalency agreements are partnerships that suspend the application of a federal CEPA regulation in a province or territory by recognizing an equivalent provincial or territorial regulation. The provincial or territorial regulations need not have the same wording as the federal regulations to be considered equivalent, but they must have the same effect. Under an equivalency agreement, the federal government still applies its federal regulations to federal lands, works and undertakings, reporting annually to Parliament on the administration of equivalency agreements.

Negotiations continue with some provinces on draft equivalency agreements for several CEPA regulations. Alberta is expected to sign the first equivalency agreement in June 1994.

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