Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the
Environment and Natural Resources
Issue 20 - Evidence, August 25, 1999 (morning meeting)
OTTAWA, Wednesday, August 25, 1999
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources,
to which was referred Bill C-32, respecting pollution prevention and the
protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to
sustainable development, met this day at 9:00 a.m. to give consideration to the
Senator Ron Ghitter (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Colleagues, we will now proceed with the continuation of our
hearings on Bill C-32. We have the honour this morning of hearing from the
Honourable David Anderson.
Mr. Minister, may I first extend to you, on my own behalf and on the behalf of
members of our committee, our congratulations on your appointment. We know that
you have a record of understanding of environmental issues. The issues before
the country at this time are, of course, very significant in the environmental
area. The bill before us is also very significant.
We welcome your appointment. We thank you for being with us this morning. We
look forward to your remarks.
We regard this meeting as most important. I want to get a sense, on behalf of
the committee, of your position relative to these hearings before you make your
I have before me an interview of August 7, 1999, which was given by you to Susan
Murray at CBC. In that interview, she asked you the following:
One of the things that is now before the Senate is the Environmental
Protection Act, and a lot of environmentalists think it has been watered down,
that it is almost useless. Are you going to do anything about that? Try to
bring some amendments to it, try to strengthen it as a first sign that you're
taking this seriously?
Your answer, sir, from the transcript was:
Yeah, this act was passed in 1988. We had it in place for five years, and then a
provision of the legislation said it had to be reviewed. It was reviewed. The
committee sat for a year. Went all across Canada, coming up with suggestions.
The government took those very seriously, responded to them, and that took
another year. Then we put in legislation and it was sent to the committee again
and they took another year examining legislation.
Finally, we came down to 470 amendments to a bill which had 400, only 400
paragraphs. The government took all those very seriously. Amendments from all
sides. And we got it through, finally, with$through the House and it was sent
on to the Senate.
For me now to reverse that process and say oh everything's back to square one
would mean that I would do very, very little else, but rehash material that has
been rehashed twice before in the last five years. I say let us respect the
decision of the House, but let us move on. We have other things. We have global
warming issues. We have exported water issues. We have a lot of other issues,
and I do not want to get bogged down in yesterday's debate.
I say to you, Mr. Minister, that we have now coming before us a considerable
number of witnesses. Reading your response to these questions leads me to
believe that if this committee came forward with amendments, you would not
consider them because you do not wish to get bogged down.
I would like you to respond to that suggestion.
The Honourable David Anderson, Minister of the Environment: Certainly, senator.
Thank you for your kind welcome.
I appreciate it very much, and I appreciate the opportunity of working with
The quote you read, senator, refers to the house process. I do not want to go
back to the house to start another three-year process. The original legislation
was passed in 1988. Review of it began in 1993. I believe that we are in 1999.
At some stage or another, we have to recognize that this bill was designed to
be passed, as it was in 1988, to be reviewed every five years and brought up to
date every five years. If the process in the house takes years and years and
years of hearings -- and this is in no way a criticism of the Senate because
the Senate has had nothing to do with the process up to now, as far as I can
see -- the bill will never be brought up to date.
Had you read further in the quote, I believe that there was a reference to the
Senate, where I say, quite correctly, I hope, that the Senate has an important
role and that the Senate process is part of the business of dealing with
At the end of the quote, I state my belief that if we see this sent back to the
house, and opened up again in the house, I do not know how many years it will
take. I expect to be the minister for two years. I was minister for two years
in National Revenue, two years in Transport, and two years in Fisheries. I
probably will not be around, given that record, when this bill comes back to you
people after being examined once more in the house because it would have to
come back to you yet again.
My point is this, senators: We have had many, many witnesses. I completely agree
with the implied substance of what you are saying, which is that the Senate has
every right to hear any number of witnesses it wishes, and that it has every
right to take the time the Senate itself allows for this. However, as a
practical matter, we are dealing with legislation that we expected would be
reviewed and dealt with last year. At least the second review should have
started last year. We are still in the first review. The legislation dates from
1988. We started the review five years later, in 1993. We are now in 1999. We
are facing the new millennium. At some stage or another, this bill has to be put
on the books and used, to protect the Canadian public from toxic substances,
and the other aspects of the bill as well should be put in place to protect the
I do not control the workings of either the Senate or the House of Commons. I am
in the cheerful position of being a cog in a machine. All I am saying in that
quote you read is that there has been a very lengthy analysis, and at some
stage legislators have to recognize that we have to either proceed or recognize
that the process is unworkable, in which case we shall continue to use the
original 1988 legislation.
The Chairman: Mr. Minister, I appreciate your remarks. However, let me add that
some of us have the feeling that what we do here with respect to this bill does
not matter. Yesterday, the Liberal majority in the Senate basically invoked
closure on the committee before the hearings even started. At that point we had
heard only from the departmental officials. We have a time constriction here now
in the Senate. Considering that it took eight months for this bill to go
through the committee in the house with, as you mentioned, over 400 amendments,
and considering the fact that this bill is of immense significance to
Canadians, affecting the health of Canadians and the future of many generations,
many of us in this committee regard this legislation as being the most
important legislation that this committee has had to deal with in the years I
have been on the committee. We have now had basically three days with your
officials and are not finished dealing with them. We have approximately 25
witnesses who are coming before us with many, very valid suggestions, including
some who are coming from your own caucus. As you know, there are very strong
environmental leaders in your own caucus. As a result, when you tell me that we
should get on with it, with the spectre, we are told, of prorogation and the
anxiety to move this legislation through, I conclude that amendments are not
going to be a possibility. I would like you to be candid with me on that point.
Mr. Anderson: I will be entirely candid. First, it would be quite inappropriate
for me to criticize a decision of the Senate of Canada. I will not do that
I feel that you have made a decision yourselves. It would be inappropriate for
you to ask me to comment on a decision made by the Senate majority yesterday. I
do not know what the vote was. I do not know whether it crossed party lines. I
know none of that, and I will steer very clear, if you do not mind, of
criticizing the upper house.
With respect to the bill, however, you are still faced with this dilemma. I came
in as minister three weeks ago. This legislation has had six years of review,
examination and analysis. The bill is only meant to last for five years at a
time. It is meant to be reviewed every five years. We should be in the second
review of the bill. We are still on the first, and we have not yet added any
amendments to the 1988 bill.
As a practical matter, I simply suggest to you that there has been intense
analysis. Very few of the witnesses that you will hear have not been heard
before by some other deliberative body. Being completely candid with you, I say
that there is only so much time for house deliberation; there is only so much
energy; and my point of view is that if we put this back in the house -- I am
only critical of the house, not the Senate -- it might take another two, three
or four years. That is beyond my time frame because, unlike senators, members
of the House of Commons face elections and there will be an election
approximately two years hence. I would say that probably there is not enough
time on the house side, where I do have some experience, to bring all this back
together once again.
You asked for a candid opinion on the dynamics of time, senator, and I am being
extremely candid and, I hope, very accurate and factual in my remarks.
The Chairman: I thank you for that.
The fact that the House of Commons spent the amount of time it spent on the bill
again shows the significance and importance of it. To bring it before this
committee in the Senate after eight months in the other place and expect the
Senate committee -- and we take great pride in the work of our Senate
committees -- to deal with a bill of 200 pages, 300 clauses of immense impact,
in this brief period of time, frankly, demeans the position of Senate
committees and demeans the Senate as an institution.
If, for example --
Senator Robichaud: Mr. Chairman --
The Chairman: Please allow me to finish and then I will be happy to turn to
Senator Taylor: That is what we are worried about: When are you going to finish?
The Chairman: In a minute. It is an issue I raised and I wish to finish it.
We believe that important amendments will be brought forward. The committee may
not agree. If they did come forward, would you deal with them?
Mr. Anderson: The substance of most of what you said in the last intervention
essentially refers to the time limit put on this committee's discussion by the
Senate itself yesterday. May I repeat, it would be inappropriate for me to
comment on the workings of the Senate.
I think it would be unfair to put a member of the House of Commons in the
position of criticizing your colleagues and the way the Senate does its
business. If amendments come forward from this committee, obviously, I will
consider them. All I am suggesting in that quote that you read, and all I am
suggesting today, is that we both know the system. The bill will go back to the
house. It will go back to the committee. Then, once again, the same cast of
witnesses will reappear on the house side and months and months will go by yet
again. That is a practical factor. It does not mean to say that you should not
put amendments forward, but I think you should bear in mind the possibility of
this bill disappearing wherever bills that fail to get passed go, to the great
pigeonhole in the sky, I suppose. That is possible.
All the work done to improve this legislation will be for naught because we are
dealing with the practical matters of time and the exhaustive analysis already
I am not here to advise you nor can I advise you, sir, one way or another on
this matter. Obviously, I do not know what the witnesses who come before you
will say. I do not know how compelling will be their evidence of the errors or
omissions that they find in the bill and of the need for amendment. Obviously,
I cannot rule out in advance whatever you may propose. Some very serious
deficiencies may be brought forward.
I am saying, however, that there are practical matters of time and electoral
politics, which suggest that if we return the bill to the house, to the lengthy
discussions of the past, the bill simply will never be passed.
The Chairman: Do others wish to make remarks?
Senator Robichaud: Mr. Chairman, asking the minister to appear before a
committee to comment on a decision that has already been made by a Senate
committee seems totally unwarranted in my view. Although we may not all agree
with the decisions made yesterday, we have no choice but to act accordingly,
now that they have been ratified.
Whatever the minister may think about our decision, there is absolutely nothing
he can do about it. If we agree on other changes, the minister will have no
choice but to consider them. Asking a minister to comment on our decision would
mean that we are not completely independent, and that he is the one running the
show, which is not the case. He can think whatever he likes, but that will
certainly not in any way change my actions as a member of this committee.
Senator Spivak: Mr. Minister, first, congratulations on your appointment. I am
happy that the government has seen fit to again appoint a very senior person to
the environment portfolio. We can only greet that with applause.
The chairman has raised an important issue. It is not very often that, at the
beginning of our hearings, the committee is faced with a time constraint.
Yesterday I raised the issue of amendments. I said that perhaps this time
constraint means that we will not be able to make amendments because we will not
have time to go through a clause-by-clause study. No other member of the
committee contradicted my claim.
I want to point out to you that about 100 amendments were made at report stage
in the House of Commons. It is an unusual situation to have the detailed work
of a committee of the House of Commons revised at report stage, with
substantial amendments being made. No witnesses have yet been able to comment
on those 100 amendments that were made at report stage.
You talk about the practical matter of time. In my time in the Senate, through
two governments, I have seen bills go back to the House of Commons and come
back to the Senate almost instantly. If the government with its majority wishes
to get the bill back immediately, they can do so.
As you know, in a court of law and in any other body that deals with public
interest, the matter of inconvenience is never considered when the substance of
an issue is to be debated. It is with the greatest respect that I point out
these things to you. I know your record. I understand what you think, but this
is our situation. You have to understand how people like myself feel when
looking at this bill. We see the recommended amendments. Some of your own
members have said that this bill should be amended.
We are being placed in quite a difficult situation. As a practical matter, Mr.
Minister, we are listening to witnesses while we have the very perfect
knowledge that no amendments will be accepted. It is new to my experience here
to be told that right at the very beginning. Please understand our concerns.
Although I do not devoutly wish this, many people have said that it would be far
better for the original Bill C-88 to prevail than to accept this bill, which
has so many constraints and so many egregious errors. I would like to point out
one such error this morning, if possible.
We are being frank here. We are in a political arena. We understand the politics
surrounding the situation. I hope you understand better why we are concerned
about the process here.
Mr. Anderson: First, thank you for your kind remarks. I have had the pleasure of
being questioned by you in a number of other committees in a number of other
portfolios. I look forward with some trepidation to the experience in the
future, although with a certain pleasure as well.
I agree that the government, with its majority, could act in a vigorous manner
in asserting that majority. It could, perhaps, pass any amended bill back
through the house very quickly. However, I would face exactly the same
criticisms as the chairman expressed this morning, namely a lack of time,
members not being given opportunity, and amendments that have been proposed
subsequent to your deliberations and before the house committee and have not
In a sense, your suggestion of what we should do in the house is exactly what
may happen in the Senate and that to which the chairman is objecting very
strongly, if I understand him correctly.
I need to be more even-handed. If the bill went back to the House of Commons, it
would face a very lengthy process. This is just an observation. If that is not
so, I would be delighted.
Again, we have a prorogation coming up, which means that all bills die. We must
make agreements with the opposition parties in the House of Commons and we have
more of those than you have in the Senate, which makes things more complex. To
continue with certain legislation means that we will face a number of
From a personal point of view, I do not want to get bogged down in my own
two-year time period. That would mean neglecting or ignoring issues, such as
water exports and watershed transfers of bulk water. I do not want to get
bogged down to avoid the new endangered species legislation, which I think is
important and which I wish to push. I do not want to miss out on the air quality
considerations, which are having a dramatic impact on the health of Canadians,
on young people in particular and on those in central Canada especially. I also
do not want delays because I want to vigorously address contaminated sites.
Yes, I want this bill to go through. This is an improvement on the legislation,
although I respect your comment that perhaps the existing Bill C-88 is better.
I think that this bill is an improvement with its anticipatory provisions, but
I think we can live with the 1988 legislation if we have to, yes.
Senator Hays: Mr. Minister, let me repeat the kind words of the chairman and
others on your appointment.
I find it a little unusual to start off in this way. Basically, we have gone
directly into questioning, which may be a good approach, but we have started on
the political issues. I want to make this observation as a preface.
We are in a political forum here. We are politicians. Delay is a legitimate
political strategy to be used in our parliamentary process, as is closure. We
have spent enough time on the politics. The politics will play out as they will
play out. We all know the membership levels in the House of Commons and in the
Senate. We know the disposition of those on the government side toward this
legislation. Our disposition tends to reflect the government, which we support.
Having said that, I concede that there are some important substantive matters to
address. They have been controversial throughout the progress of this
legislation through the other place and they continue to be so here. In fact,
our witness list includes members of the House of Commons from the government
I make those observations to try to put this into perspective. I do not agree
with the chairman's characterization of the Senate being demeaned. I want to
reinforce what you said. And as Senator Robichaud said, the legislation is
before this committee at the present time and it will be before the Senate
chamber, possibly with amendments, and possibly with a recommendation that it
not be passed.
Having said that, and having had an opportunity to read the minister's
presentation, I suggest that we get on to these important substantive issues
about which I know many senators have questions.
I would further suggest that, perhaps, Mr. Minister, you could abbreviate your
presentation to those things which you think are important so that we can get
on to those questions.
Senator Kenny: I simply observe that nothing in yesterday's motion prohibited
anyone from moving amendments. All it did was require that we finish all of our
work by 12 noon on Tuesday, September 7.
I have some substantive questions that I should like to put to the minister. If
that is in order, Mr. Chairman, I would do it now.
The Chairman: Not quite. The minister would make a statement first, I would
suspect, in the normal course.
Senator Taylor: For the record, we are hearing repeatedly about being in a rush.
As deputy chairman of this committee and the one most responsible for this
matter on the government side, as well as being part of the steering committee,
I think it would be wise for the record to show that we tried to hold meetings
at the end of June. We have had this bill since the third week of June. We could
not convene meetings in June or July. I talked about it with the chairman,
because I thought it was important, and because the chair is a member of the
opposition, that the senator from Manitoba who was sort of the environmental
critic be present. In July, she could not be present. In August --
Senator Spivak: Is this a shot across my bow?
Senator Taylor: We come to the third week in August. This has been on our agenda
since late June. As Senator Hays said, delay is legitimate. I have had many
more years in the opposition than in the government, and I like to throw hand
grenades over the fence now and again to slow up the parade. I am quite aware
of what is going on. There comes a time when you have to throw them back or fish
or cut bait.
As far as amendments being accepted, in my short time in the Senate, I have
never heard of a bill coming from the house with a comment saying, "This
may not be right; we are ready to accept amendments." It would be a whole
new process if any minister walked in here and said, "This bill is so bad.
Would you please amend it and send it back." The whole nature of the
process is to come forward with a bill and say, "This is pretty good."
Why not wait to see what the Senate does?
I am speaking for the record to show that we have spent a lot of time on this
bill, and we may have to spend a lot more time, but the minister has his side
to propose, and we will look at it and either change it or not.
The Chairman: If there are no other comments, Mr. Minister, I would make one
final remark. I was advised by some individuals who must remain unnamed that
they had received advice from someone in your department not to bother coming
to the Senate hearings because there will be no amendments. As a result, one of
them decided not to come, and another attended anyway.
Senator Taylor: That is all hearsay.
The Chairman: It is direct. As a result of that, and taking into consideration
the closure motion that was imposed upon us yesterday, and considering the fact
that we regard this legislation to be of the utmost significance, meaning no
disrespect to you, sir, with great regret I would ask Senator Taylor to take
the Chair. I will be back this afternoon to deal with the department officials,
or my colleagues will be. We will be here, of course, for all the other
witnesses out of respect to their point of view, but we do not wish to add any
more of this attitude toward the Senate, our committees, and this important
legislation by being here. Therefore, my colleagues and I will now leave, and I
ask Senator Taylor to take the Chair, and we will return this afternoon to
finish with department officials. I apologize for doing this, but we take this
Senator Taylor: I take it that you want the Chair back this afternoon?
Senator Kenny: Is there a band playing, or is there music?
Senator Hays: This is a legitimate political tactic.
Senator Nicholas W. Taylor (Deputy Chairman) in the Chair.
The Deputy Chairman: That is one of the hand grenades I also used to throw when
I was in opposition.
Let us proceed. Did you want to make a short statement first, Mr. Minister?
Mr. Anderson: Mr. Deputy Chairman, I am disappointed, I must admit, by the
The Deputy Chairman: But you should not be surprised.
Mr. Anderson: I would point out that it is based upon unnamed individuals who
are conveying the views of other unnamed individuals. Ministers quickly
discover that many people claim to speak for them, and no one has the right to
speak for me in that regard. The statement I made to the press, which included,
I think, a very favourable and a complimentary and respectful reference to the
Senate proceedings, remains my position. I am disappointed.
Obviously, I have no comments on the closure motion in the Senate.
With each passing year, the environmental challenges that face us are becoming
more complex. At the same time, we are seeing improvements in science and
improvements in both law and policy. I believe this legislation to be an
improvement over the original 1988 CEPA and, indeed, a step forward.
Having said that, let me repeat what I said to Senator Spivak: It is always
possible to continue to work under the old legislation. It is not as effective,
but we could do so. However, we need this bill to take advantage of the changes
and advances that have taken place in science and in other areas. This bill
will allow us to improve our ability to meet Canada's environmental challenges.
With your cooperation in passing this legislation, I and my colleague, the
Minister of Health, can get on with the job of implementing the new CEPA. This,
honourable senators, is the key. Implementing the new CEPA and using it and
complementary federal legislation will better protect the environment and
health of Canadians, especially our children and grandchildren.
Before getting into some of the details of the bill, I want to briefly talk
about its five year history. I have that information in front of me and I think
it would be worth reading it.
As you know, the existing Canadian Environment Protection Act calls for a public
review every five years to ensure the law keeps pace with changing
environmental and health science. Bill C-32 is the product of this very
important review process. There has been a full and stimulating discussion of
issues. This is what Canadians expect, just as they expect their government to
protect the environment and human health from the effects of toxic substances.
Over five years ago, the House Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable
Development started a year-long review of the existing Canadian Environmental
The standing committee heard from Canadians across the country --
representatives of provincial and municipal governments, public interest
groups, industry, labour, aboriginal people, and academics. In 1995, the
government's response to the standing committee report provided the basis for
Bill C-74, which was introduced at the end of 1996. That bill died on the Order
Paper in the spring of 1997.
More consultations were held with interested Canadians, which resulted in Bill
C-32 being introduced in March, 1998, almost a year and a half ago. Since then
it has been the subject of a very vigorous debate in the other place, with more
than 450 amendments introduced, discussed and, in many cases, adopted.
As I mentioned in the earlier discussion, the act calls for that review every
five years, but I do not think the original drafters were thinking that the
review itself would take more than five years.
As a committee that deals with the environment, as well as with energy and
natural resources, you are well aware that debate on those issues can become
very polarized. At different stages during its development, some have claimed
that Bill C-32 would discourage investment. Others have stated that the bill is
too weak to protect the environment. However, the bottom line is that the bill
provides effective new legal tools for environmental protection and does not
Those criticizing the bill have focused on three main concerns: first, the need
for Governor-in-Council approval to add a substance to the list of toxic
substances rather than the approval of only the Minister of the Environment and
the Minister of Health; second, the way in which we achieve "virtual
elimination"; and third, the inclusion of the two words "cost-effectiveness"
in the decision-making process.
With regard to the first point, I can assure you that whether two or 26 people
approve additions to the list of toxic substances, the onus is clearly on the
ministers of the environment and health to make the case that a substance is
causing or may cause harm to the environment and human health and, therefore,
should be controlled.
Honourable senators know full well that cabinet decisions are not taken by
voting. When two ministers charged with responsibility by legislation come
forward, it would be unwise of colleagues, without the very best of reasons, to
disagree. If there is such disagreement and uncertainty, it is clearly a
sensible provision to have all ministers from all parts of the country take part
in the discussion in order that all vantage points be represented.
This provision in the bill is not new. The existing act also requires
Governor-in-Council approval to add a substance to the list of toxic
substances. In fact, the special committee of cabinet has always acted on the
recommendations of the Ministers of Health and the Environment to place a
substance on the list. We take our responsibility seriously, and no substance
that can harm the environment or human health will fall through the cracks with
The second issue of virtual elimination relates to the special category of toxic
substances, such as dioxins and furans, that persist in the environment,
accumulate in the tissues of living organisms, and are released into the
environment as a result of human activity. Releases of these substances can
create problems for the environment and for our health. For that reason, Bill
C-32 requires their virtual elimination, and this means that we must hold the
objective of ultimately reducing releases below the level of quantification; in
other words, to a level so low that they cannot be measured with the technology
of the day. Bear in mind that our ability to measure such infinitesimal amounts
also advances faster than the technology that could remove trace amounts.
In some cases, achieving virtual elimination will not be immediately feasible
for valid social, economic or technical reasons. However, Bill C-32 explicitly
recognizes the step-by-step approach to ensure that risks to health are avoided
while maintaining the ultimate objective of virtual elimination.
In my view, the virtual elimination provision in Bill C-32 represents a
significant step forward over the existing legislation. It is an innovative
endeavour and often such innovative endeavours attract criticism, partly
because of fear of the unknown.
I strongly support the virtual elimination provision because it is a proactive
and precautionary approach that will reduce risk to the environment and human
health. At the same time, the bill has safeguards to ensure that social,
economic and technical factors are fully considered in the decisions relating
to virtual elimination.
Third, concerns have been raised about the inclusion of the term "cost-effective"
in relation to the precautionary principle. Indeed, this phrase is not a new
concept introduced at the last minute as a compromise, as some critics have
claimed. Bill C-32 reflects the precise words of the precautionary principle
agreed to by Canada and over 100 other countries at the 1992 Rio Summit.
It is important to put the "cost-effective" issue into context. First,
it has no bearing on our decision of whether a substance is toxic. I want to
assure you that these decisions will continue to be based on science.
As in the past, cost-effective considerations will influence what type of action
will be taken to control pollutants. These decisions have not been made in a
vacuum -- cost is a consideration in all government decisions, as are social,
technical and other economic matters.
With regard to protecting the environment and human health, it is clear that the
costs of inaction can be much greater. In fact, incorporating the precautionary
principle into the body of this bill is an improvement that will significantly
strengthen my hand when pushing for action.
I will go quickly to the highlights of the bill. Why is it better? There are
essentially four reasons: pollution prevention; the opportunity to deal with
fuels and vehicle emissions; improved enforcement; and improved control of
With regard to pollution prevention, the renewed CEPA will make pollution
prevention the priority approach to environmental protection in Canada. This
means shifting the focus from managing pollution that goes into our air and
water after it has been created to preventing that pollution in the first
place. Our experience demonstrates that some substances create problems in the
environment that are extremely costly and difficult to clean up. All Canadians
are aware of the Sydney Tar Ponds. That situation illustrates that it is more
beneficial environmentally, economically and socially to prevent pollution
before it happens than to try to deal with the consequences of it later. Thus,
we will be promoting pollution prevention.
The bill provides for new powers on fuels and vehicle emissions. Air quality,
particularly in our cities, and particularly in central Canada, but also in
large cities such as Vancouver on the West Coast, is a matter of increasing
concern for all of us, and likely of particular concern to those of you from
those larger centres. Health Canada statistics show that since 1979 the
incidence of childhood asthma has increased by 400 per cent and that more than
5,000 people die prematurely each year across Canada from causes related to air
pollution. I had asthma as a child and I am very sympathetic to children who
suffer from that disease.
We know that car emissions contribute to air pollution, but running a lawnmower
for one hour is equivalent to driving a car for 500 kilometres. In other words,
it is not only caused by automobiles. We currently do not have any authority in
CEPA to set engine emission standards. Bill C-32 will help us deal with air
pollution and, under the new CEPA, the government will have broader powers to
set emission standards for vehicles and engines, including engines used in
non-road applications such as lawnmowers, generators, and farm and construction
equipment. In other words, those provisions have been broadened.
Under the current CEPA, authority is limited to regulating fuel elements which,
when burned, result in air pollution.
Bill C-32 will allow us to prescribe the ingredients or characteristics that are
permitted in fuels so that they are compatible with the new clean-engine
technologies or new pollution control equipment.
The next topic is new enforcement powers. The enforcement officers, for example,
will be given peace officer powers, which will allow them to use the general
warrants provisions of the Criminal Code, which will increase their
investigative powers, permitting them to track illegal substances and to
conduct perimeter searches of suspected environmental polluters. Enforcement
officers will also, under the new act, have the ability to issue environmental
protection compliance orders on the spot to stop illegal activity in emergency
or urgent situations.
The next topic is toxics. There are new obligations under the bill with respect
to toxics. The government must, under the legislation, examine all the 23,000
substances in commerce in Canada to establish which ones are priorities for
risk assessment. That will probably mean that some 15 to 25 substances that are
currently in use in Canada will be declared toxic each year, which is triple the
current rate of analysis and listing.
Under the current CEPA, there are no deadlines for action on toxic substances.
The new CEPA puts deadlines in place. Once a substance is declared toxic,
control measures, including regulations, must be publicly announced within 24
months. These measures must be finalized within a further 18 months. This will
protect Canadians from impacts of toxic substances much more quickly than the
Bill C-32 also makes the National Pollutant Release Inventory mandatory. Within
the next year, additional CEPA toxic substances that are persistent and
bioaccumulative, such as dioxins and furans, will be added to the National
Pollutant Release Inventory.
In addition, we will be conducting research on hormone-disrupting substances --
gender-benders. Other highlights are in the presentation, senators. There is
also a reference in the presentation to funding, and let me touch on that
quickly. The government has provided $111 million in new funding for action on
toxics over the next five years, so there is economic muscle behind this new
legislation. It will allow the examination of the 23,000 chemicals that I
mentioned earlier; it will improve the process used to assess new substances;
and there will be improvements and funding for the regulations and the tracking
In May, 11 million dollars in project funding was announced from a $40 million
research initiative looking into such key areas as endocrine disruptors,
persistent organic pollutants, metals in the environment, urban air quality
issues, and the cumulative effects of toxic substances.
All of this new funding will help us make effective use of the tools in the
renewed Canadian Environmental Protection Act to better protect the environment
and the health of Canadians.
This funding, senators, is not dependent on the passage of the legislation but,
obviously, if the legislation is not passed, the arguments put forward to
achieve the funding level would have to be reviewed by Treasury Board. I can
only say that then we would be back to some uncertainty, but I can tell you
that this is the expected funding level. We want to ensure that we put the
muscle behind the legislation.
There are other tools in this bill, but I will pass over that part of the
presentation and simply say that while I believe that it is always possible,
with goodwill, to use out-of-date legislation, this bill, after its tortuous
examination and development, is an improvement. I would like to thank the many,
many people who have taken part in that lengthy process in trying to come up
with the best piece of legislation possible.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have, senators, but I would
like to repeat that I thank you for the opportunity of being here. I would be
happy to return at any time, except for when I am required to be in British
Columbia in my capacity as senior minister. I believe that those senators who
have served on other committees will recollect that I have sometimes been before
you even without invitation. I regard the Senate deliberations as extremely
important and if it is ever possible for me to come before you to answer
questions, I would be happy to do so. If, on the other hand, there are
questions that could be answered one on one, I would be happy to have lunch or
dinner with you, and the Department of the Environment could probably pay the
bill. I would be delighted to meet you one way or another if you have questions
on environmental issues.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you, minister. That bribe did sound interesting.
I wish you luck when you return to British Columbia. It seems to me one of the
last times you were back there you got run over by somebody when you were out
on the slopes.
Mr. Minister, before I open it up to questions from the Liberal senators, as you
probably know, most of the questions on this bill or most of the problems with
it have been from within our own caucus. The only real questioning or debate
that has taken place on this bill has been within the caucus, so I think you
are forewarned and forearmed. You can expect some reasonably tough questions.
Senator Kenny: I want to touch briefly on three areas. Welcome, minister. First,
I should like to focus on your enforcement comments. The last time this
committee dealt with a CEPA bill, we had a minister before us who announced how
important the new powers were that the government was achieving, and then when
we asked the minister how many inspectors were available to enforce the
legislation, I think we were told that there were 18, which worked out to about
one and a half per province and territory.
What muscle do you really have in your department? What resources do you have to
enforce these new powers? Or are they just something written on a piece of
paper that really have no muscle behind them.
Mr. Anderson: First, may I say that it is a pleasure, Senator Kenny, to see you
on this committee. I remember well, as I am sure all Canadians interested in
the environment do, your pioneering and very important work with respect to
vehicle emissions. I think you should take some pride in the results of your
With respect to the question itself, from a personal point of view, I agree with
the thrust of your argument. There must be adequate enforcement. Unless you
have some club at the end of it, some way of ensuring that the law is obeyed
for the very few people who are socially irresponsible, then you have a hole in
the bucket and the water drains out and nobody else sees any reason to be
socially responsible, either.
I cannot give you those figures now but I will ask Mr. Guimont to answer. In my
previous incarnation as Fisheries Minister, I quite dramatically increased the
number of inspectors to the point that we were hiring 80 more per year. Quite
often when dealing with enforcement officers within the federal government, you
are speaking of people who are close to my age or yours -- perhaps closer to
yours -- the average age of an enforcement officer being 49. An enforcement
officer of 49, generally speaking, cannot outrun the 22-year-old poacher. You
must not only have numbers, but you must consider the age structure of your
enforcement body. It is more than a question of numbers.
With that, I will turn it over to Mr. Guimont to give you the figures of this
Mr. François Guimont, Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental
Protection, Office of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Department of
the Environment: Mr. Chairman, right now we have about 60 enforcement officers
across the country, investigators and inspectors, but that is not the sole
contingent. We also have other people supporting those two crews.
Ministerial officials recently went before the House of Commons Standing
Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development during the so-called "enforcement
review." Out of that came a report, which was filed with Parliament. The
government put forward its response and 15 projects were created as a result of
that process. The department is now implementing those 15 projects, which touch
on issues of efficiency, increasing capacity and increasing our impact on the
ground. We are revamping our decision-making processes, our roles and
responsibilities, our training, peace officer status and a number of other
projects. As we make progress on those 15 projects, we will see more effective
enforcement actions being taken on the ground.
On the specific issue of resources, the minister mentioned that $14.3 million
per annum has been given to the department to address the issue of toxic
substances. Those dollars are meant to support the so-called "Bill C-32
implementation." We are preparing that work so that if the bill is passed,
we will be able to hit the ground rapidly.
There are three basic targets for the resources -- better assessment, better
measures and better tracking. We have set aside some of the resources for
enforcement. One of our 15 projects includes developing of a business case and
analyzing whether we need more resources in order to go beyond the basic
functions that we are reviewing.
We took the stop-gap measure during this fiscal year of injecting resources into
our enforcement program. When the business case is completed and the minister
is briefed on the 15 projects, we will decide on the next steps vis-à-vis
the enforcement action plan.
Senator Kenny: In fairness, you are new to the portfolio, Mr. Minister. Have you
had an opportunity to reflect on the resources and on the comments made by Mr.
Guimont just now? Do you feel that you have adequate resources now or do you
intend to re-examine that question in the coming months?
Mr. Anderson: Senator, I will be examining the question closely in the coming
months, particularly on the enforcement side, to which you limited your
question. In addition to numbers, we will give more effective powers to the
inspectors. They will be better able to handle prevention on the spot, to
handle cease and desist orders for examples of improper storage of pollutants
and things like that. The new powers improve their efficiency.
I will closely examine the numbers issue with respect to enforcement and, more
generally, the issue of financial levels in the department. We may rearrange
them or, where necessary, perhaps in the enforcement area, consider seeking
Senator Kenny: Would it be unreasonable to ask you to communicate with this
committee by, say, the end of the calendar year about your views as they
Mr. Anderson: That is a very reasonable suggestion. I will target the first week
of December for that response.
Senator Kenny: I have questions about fuels and vehicle emissions. As you may
know, I have been regularly tracking on the Order Paper the progress of the
different departments. I note that your department is the only one that does
not use the QTOOL. Also, I have been following with some interest recent news
reports suggesting that the government does not feel that the move to
alternative fuels is as effective as previously thought.
Have you had a briefing on this as yet? Can you comment on that?
Mr. Anderson: I have not had such a briefing as yet, sénateur.
Personally, most of my involvement has been through wearing my other hat with
respect to Ballard Power and the search for new technology, as opposed to using
I recognize that my briefing has weaknesses. I will be brought up to date on
this issue. There is a major opportunity for meeting Kyoto numbers through the
use of alternative fuels, as well bringing in totally new technology, which
The eventual mix will be interesting to see. When discussing alternative fuels,
one major issue is that of already-invested capital. Sometimes we can take
advantage of existing capital investment. For example, an automobile with a
normal engine can use an alternative fuel with a certain adaptation at a low
cost. To have that automobile run with the Ballard system might be a much more
costly process and may be more difficult to achieve in the short run.
Senator Kenny: Two issues arise in terms of the government fleet. The size of
the fleet is one. It appears we have far too many vehicles. Do you have a view
Second is the lack of leadership we are seeing from some of your colleagues in
moving to alternative fuels. Would you care to enlighten the committee as to
what fuel you are using in your vehicle today?
Mr. Anderson: I use propane. I have another vehicle, which uses natural gas.
That vehicle can be switched to gasoline use because, in some areas, the
natural gas distribution system is inadequate. I intend one day to get an
analysis of the effectiveness of a duel-fuel vehicle.
Senator Kenny: Do not bother.
Mr. Anderson: Obviously, these technical issues would be of great interest.
There is a gasoline vehicle as well, which came from a previous department.
Senator Kenny: One issue that concerns people greatly, and your officials
touched on it yesterday, is cost-effectiveness in the context of decisions
relating to toxic substances.
Could you run through this issue once again to give this committee more comfort
with the concept of how the term "cost-effective" is used in this
legislation and whether we should be concerned about it?
Mr. Anderson: To answer the last part first, I do not believe that you should be
concerned. You should be more concerned if that term were not in the bill.
There is a need to examine and balance the differing risks in differing areas
regarding different substances. Resources are limited. The only measure we have
is some sort of cost and benefit analysis.
Let me use the example of a personal vehicle. The owner sees that there are
25,000 kilometres on the tires but decides not to spend $600 to buy brand new
tires. The owner knows that there is a tiny element of extra safety at risk in
riding on used tires, but the owner makes a cost-benefit decision balancing the
real but minor risk to the safety of self and family versus the expenditure of
$600. All of us have made such decisions in a variety of ways. It simply means
that we must make some of those decisions when we have limited resources.
In some other areas, there are disturbing costs that are not set out in dollar
terms. For example, the toxic substance of asbestos might not otherwise be a
risk to health unless one decides to remove it and so disturb it, thus creating
a risk which is unexpected or which is greater than the risk you sought to
eliminate. It is necessary to weigh the benefits and the costs together.
That would be my analysis of it. I do not know whether Mr. Guimont has more to
add, but I cannot see how you can avoid some sort of cost-benefit analysis. We
do it in every area of human activity.
Senator Adams: It is nice to see you again, minister. We have met you many times
in the Fisheries Committee in the Senate, and now we are talking about the
environment instead of fish. Congratulations on your appointment to the post of
Minister of the Environment.
You are not really a stranger to us in the Arctic. I know you have travelled up
there several times. After we went through Bill C-32, a great many
environmental concerns were raised about people already being affected in the
Arctic, even though we have no big manufacturers up there. The pollution comes
not only from southern Canada but also from other countries. I am concerned that
we have already been affected, according to people who have been up north to
study environmental issues.
My concerns are not anything that you have not heard before. My special area of
concern regards PCBs -- in particular, the rates in women who give birth and
those found in beluga whales.
During our summer break, I like to hunt, catch caribou and fish. People where I
live do that all the time. In the south, we drive on the highways and we see
beef cows and cattle at the side of the highway. Inspectors examine the health
issues involved. For many years, we have noticed the effects of pollution, on
the caribou that eat moss, as well as on the fish, and we also feel the effects
of pollution dropping from the air from other countries, according to
scientists. We have cold weather up there, and when pollutants hit that cold
air, they fall from the sky onto the ground.
We must do many things in the next period of time about environmental concerns
in the North. I am glad that this legislation is to be reviewed every five
years. At one time, we had a great deal of concern about Bill C-68, and the
Minister of Justice at the time, Minister Rock, hired some people to review the
bill. We never heard about any changes or anything happening and how the gun
laws will affect the people in the community.
My hope is that we will pass this bill and that our concerns will be addressed
and that when it is reviewed every five years that some consideration will be
given to the conditions in the Arctic and the people there.
Mr. Anderson: Senator, the analysis you gave of the concentration of toxic
substances in the North is absolutely accurate. The natural weather systems
tend to deposit many toxic substances in the Arctic.
When caribou eat lichen, their tongue covers a large area of rock, and pick up
more pollutants than the southern cow. You mentioned the diet, and it is true
that the pollutants are concentrated in the fatty areas of the animals.
Ultimately, you reach a situation where, as you say, it is of considerable
concern to the nursing mother.
This bill will improve the situation. However, the problem in the Arctic is
essentially an international problem, and we will need to deal with it through
the circumpolar conference and through bilateral arrangements, particularly
with Russia. Probably the worst pollution in the world is found on the Russian
north slope, with the very slight grade to the rivers that flow into the Arctic.
Nuclear submarines, which are not in the best of condition, are at docks at
northern Arctic ports in Russia, and they will create a problem in the future.
Submarines have been literally abandoned in the waters. As we know, there are
many decades of drift, going back to a wrecked vessel that wound up in Greenland
four or five years later. We know that the flow is into our area from the
I believe that will be one of our major international problems. It is a problem
not just for Canada but also for the other Arctic Council nations, whose aid we
will need to enlist in these activities. It will take large amounts of
international money to improve the situation in the Arctic.
I wish I could be more positive and encouraging. This bill will improve things
with respect to southern-borne pollutants from Canada, but the problem in the
Arctic is that only a small portion of the pollutants that work their way into
the Arctic come from southern Canada. Certainly, it is a matter of major
concern, and we must be anticipatory. We cannot wait until the problems are
developed. We must try to get ahead out there with good science. The Arctic is
indeed a major area of concern. Pollutants are concentrated there for a number
The Deputy Chairman: Senator Adams mentioned the concentration in food because
many of our people in the North eat more wild food in their daily diet than we
do down here. Food inspectors inspect every carcass in the south, but I am sure
it would be too much to expect every wild carcass to be inspected. Is there
anything in this bill that will ensure that the people in the North are right
up-to-date on any type of pollution or any type of increase in unwanted
chemicals in their wildlife?
Mr. Anderson: Yes, there is. It will reduce what comes from Southern Canada. I
do not know the percentage that comes from Southern Canada, but I believe it is
quite small. I believe that we are really dealing with a global problem, which
concentrates in the Arctic. I will ask my officials whether they can give some
sort of figure.
This will improve things. Even the deer you and I may shoot in Alberta or
British Columbia has a different diet, which produces far less pollution in the
flesh than the animal in the Arctic, for a number of reasons. We tend to avoid
the fatty part of the animal. In the North, because of climactic conditions,
the inhabitants tend to favour the fatty parts of the animal.
The Deputy Chairman: Perhaps I did not phrase my question clearly enough. I know
what you are trying to do so pollution does not get up there, but I am talking
about the month-to-month evaluation of what they eat.
Mr. Anderson: You are quite correct. Health Canada does the analysis. I may be
unfair to Health Canada, but all I can do is repeat criticisms, which I have
heard from Inuvik to Iqualuit right through the Arctic.
The analysis is slow and the figures are sometimes given in an unusable form. If
someone wants to know whether an animal is edible, they do not want to know six
months later from a series of figures on a printout from a computer. We have to
improve the system of analysis. We must ensure that the information can be used
by local people.
Senator Adams: Thank you, minister. That is my real concern. Seals and beluga
whales are staples of our diet in the North and if their meat is affected by
pollution, we need to know before it is too late. We cannot afford to buy steak
in the store, yet we cannot eat the caribou meat, which also forms a large part
of our diet.
You say that you have $40 million for research in your department. I hope that
more will be devoted to studying the situation in our area.
Mr. Anderson: Senator, I hope that in the future Allan Rock, Minister of Health,
and I can jointly meet with you. It is to be hoped that by that time there will
be some improvement on the existing system of analysis. It is inadequate. There
is a lack of recognition of the importance of country food. We must do
something to give a level of confidence to the people of the North.
Senator Adams: I am also concerned about the overpopulation of geese. This has
not been studied much. There may be reason for concern with regard to what they
are eating while they are in the south. Things such as this should be included
in the bill.
Mr. Anderson: This is a subject for a special session because it is important to
a very high percentage of people in the North. The current system is too
fractured in its approach to this. We do not have a clear, overall picture for
the people in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
The Deputy Chairman: Senator Adams has expressed to me some concern, which I
think is valid, about cost-effectiveness. Is it the case that you may not be as
concerned about the effects of pollution in the North as you are in southern
parts of Canada because of the economic benefits that come from having a much
greater concentration of people there?
Mr. Anderson: I do not think that is the case. Canadians have considerable
concern for their fellow citizens. That has been demonstrated by our concern
for fellow Canadians who live in coastal communities and those who live in
agricultural communities and have certain problems with agriculture.
The real problem is that the emitting nations have no concern whatsoever for the
Canadian situation, be it north or south. It is simply a problem of the
international system not being effective in controlling the emission of
pollutants. We are working very hard on the issue of global warming and are
obtaining an international agreement on that. However, we have a long way to go
with respect to pollutants, and the Arctic is where it is showing up with a
Furthermore, what is happening is not encouraging. The problem may even be
worsening in some respects because of dislocations in the Russian economy.
There have been improvements. The unification of Germany has reduced pollutants
coming from the former East Germany. The more democratic nations of Eastern
Europe definitely have better policies than the previous regimes. However, we
are facing an accumulated and continuous problem, and it is substantial. We
really notice it in the Canadian Arctic. However, 80 per cent of the air
pollution in the Maritimes comes from outside Canada, and you can guess from
Similarly, a very substantial portion of the air that rolls into Ontario comes
from across the border and is a contributor to the deaths of children and the
asthma problems I mentioned earlier. There is no way to deal with some of these
issues other than globally. I expect that this will be a major concern of
Minister Axworthy and myself, as well as of the Minister of Health and other
ministers as we move forward.
Canada has always been very conscious of its international responsibilities, but
we must get more involved in this aspect in the next couple of decades.
Peacekeeping is excellent, but let us hope that in the next few decades
Canada's reputation for peacekeeping will be transferred to the area of
Senator Hays: Minister, I have questions in three areas, the first from Part 5
and the other two from the miscellaneous section of the bill. They deal with
economic instruments and board of review proceedings.
Regarding Part 5, I want to know how this will be administered. Your officials
were questioned yesterday and I understood that there is in process a means of
identifying inherently toxic substances, which are defined in the bill. There
are currently 12 on the list, which are the persistent organic pollutants. I
gathered from the exchange that took place yesterday that nine of those have
been virtually eliminated and that the balance have not. Having made the
decision that they are inherently toxic, is cost-effectiveness the reason for
the longer time frame in virtually eliminating the remaining ones that have
been so identified?
Second, a general comment would be helpful in terms of how the decision is made
to include substances from the list of 23,000 -- a list that will undoubtedly
lengthen. It seems to me that radioactive material and many other things would
fall within the definition and that it would not be practical to virtually
eliminate nuclear substances to fuel reactors and so on.
I will leave it as general as that. Perhaps you or your officials can respond to
Mr. Anderson: Thank you, senator. You suggested that my officials might be able
to provide technical information and, certainly, I will turn to them in that
The problem is an important one in that 23,000 substances is an enormous number.
Even if we are talking about only having 15 to 25 being worked on every year,
then clearly there will be a management problem in handling this analysis.
I now turn it over to the experts.
Mr. Guimont: Mr. Chairman, the senator has touched on a number of points. I will
start with the 23,000 substances. The so-called 23,000 substances are part of
what we call the domestic substances list, which formed part of the 1988
legislation and which will exist in the new CEPA. It is somewhat like a static
reference list. It provided a snapshot in time when we said, "We know that
these substances are used in commerce in Canada." The reason for my saying
this is that the existing CEPA, as well as the new CEPA, has provisions for new
substances. We call that the new substances regulations. For those new
substances, which are declared new as per the regulation, companies have to
file a notification with government officials. That notification comes with a
package of information that allows our people to say either that the substance
is not a problem and that it can be placed on the domestic substances list, the
DSL; or that we have a concern about it and the minister can then place a
condition on the new substance.
There have been as many as 900 new substances introduced per year since the
regulations were passed a couple of years ago.
When one talks about the domestic substances list, one has to be able to
understand what is part of it. Essentially, the new CEPA gives the department a
mandate, over a seven-year period, to go through the domestic substances list
of these 23,000 substances to carry out a screening, or a categorization, if
you like, of the domestic substances list.
You may be interested to know that some of the substances on that list are no
longer used in Canada. However, they remain on the list. The point I am trying
to make is that in that seven-year period to which I referred we need to be
able to go through the list mechanically to set aside, for example, those items
which are no longer being used. In this process, we use certain criteria,
including inherent toxicity. In other words, we are looking for persistency and
bioaccumulation as markers that will tell us to which items of the 23,000 we
should be paying more attention.
That may lead to three things. The first is that it is not really a problem and,
as such, it remains on the DSL. Second, it will point out items with respect to
which there may be a problem in terms of potential toxicity, and action will be
taken accordingly. The third point is that there may be times when we need a
more thorough assessment. The more thorough assessment is what we call the
priority substance list assessment.
A more thorough assessment is really a risk-based assessment using full-blown
scientific tools and information. This leads us to the issue of virtual
elimination, a matter that has been raised, as well.
If a substance meets certain criteria, that is, persistency, bioaccumulation and
toxicity and if they are predominantly man-made, they can be slated for virtual
This now brings me to the issue of cost-effectiveness. Whether we take action on
a new substance as a result of the new substance notification program that we
have, or whether we take action on a non-virtual elimination substance or a
virtual elimination substance, that is, one that would be slated for such
action, in all cases we get into a process in which stakeholders are involved.
The difference between the existing legislation and the proposed legislation is
that we now have time lines. This is not a process that will take years. It is
a 24-month process for the establishment of options that can be taken against a
substance slated for action. A further 18 months will be allowed to complete the
measure that has been selected. Completing the measure means that we will speak
to the industry, environmental groups and other stakeholders, after which we
will select the action that will be taken on that substance.
In the existing CEPA, this seven-year time line for DSL categorization does not
exist. The 24 months to select options does not exist. The 18 months to
finalize the measure does not exist. These are new time measures which, in my
jargon, would increase accountability and transparency from the time something
comes out of the toxic chute to action on the ground.
The proposed bill talks about measures, not regulation. It does not exclude
regulation but it does not confine action to regulation. The whole concept of
talking about being "more cost-effective" refers to a route that is
judged to be more effective in achieving a result. The result does not explain;
it is what we want to achieve. We will ask ourselves: What is the more
effective route to achieving that result?
The concept of cost-effectiveness is in Bill C-32. Quite frankly, when we do
business today the type of explanation I am giving you now is our day-to-day
way of doing business.
Senator Hays: Why is there a delay in the virtual elimination of the remaining
12, those that are not virtually eliminated?
Mr. Guimont: At the moment there is no virtual elimination list. What we have in
Bill C-32 essentially comes from the toxic substances management policy, which
was approved by cabinet and tabled in the house in 1995. We have taken the
essence of the policy and put it in legislation.
In the absence of provisions for virtual elimination in the current legislation,
we have regulations covering dioxins, furans and pulp and paper. For all
intents and purposes, this regulation has virtually eliminated dioxins and
furans from pulp mill effluents.
Even in the absence of Bill C-32, we have an example of virtual elimination. We
have a list of substances that are slated for virtual elimination. I will give
you an example. DDT has not been used in Canada since the 1960s. Obviously,
then, we can say, if someone asks, that we have virtually eliminated DDT in
Canada. In the case of dioxins and furans for pulp and paper mill effluent, our
answer would be that they have been virtually eliminated from those effluents.
For those other substances, which might not have been banned or which have not
been reduced to virtual elimination the way I am describing for pulp and paper,
further actions are required.
Mr. Anderson: Of the $111 million I talked about earlier, some $79 million is
earmarked for this process, which illustrates that there is financial support
for the type of process that Mr. Guimont mentioned.
Senator Hays: I wish now to turn to clause 333 of the bill, which refers to
board of review proceedings. There is a quasi-judicial process provided for in
this clause. In part, the clause states that a notice of objection to a
decision can be made and the minister, or ministers, may establish, and I
emphasize the words "may establish," a board of review to inquire into
the nature and extent of the danger posed by the substance. Procedures to
appeal such a decision follow.
What kind of right is that? The ministers make a decision and implement it.
Then, if the minister wishes to give the person an opportunity to question it
in a formal way, he or she has a decision. If there is a decision to allow a
review, then the minister selects the board that will review it. It is a bit
in-house, if I can put it that way.
Could you comment on that in terms of its fairness to the person appealing? In
other words, one would normally expect to find a narrow set of things that
could be appealed. If you fit within that narrow set of circumstances, then you
can appeal, but you appeal to someone independent. This allows broad appeal,
but leaves discretion at two levels: the first level is whether the board of
review should be struck, and the second level is determining who should be on
the board of review.
Mr. Anderson: I will turn that technical question over, but I would first say
that the appeal to the minister is not unusual in situations where there is a
high-level technical concern of this type.
As well, we do have, as I think the witnesses on this very bill have made clear,
some very determined and knowledgeable interest groups within the country that
will be following such decisions very closely.
Also, there are sometimes issues where the government is responsible, such as
with respect to health and pollution prevention. To turn over the appeal to
another body essentially removes the constitutional responsibility of
ministers. It creates non-accountable bodies, which take over policy direction.
These are some of the considerations, but again, the experts will probably have
a much better answer.
Mr. Guimont: First, the board of review provisions in Bill C-32 are unchanged
from the existing CEPA. They have been there for a while.
Second, a board of review is, in my own words, somewhat narrow. It is important
to note that it talks about regulation and the various powers the minister may
use, but it says that the minister may establish a board of review to inquire
into the nature and extent of the danger posed by the substance, for which a
decision was made. The board of review is concerned about the nature and extent.
You cannot have a board of review because you are not happy with the paper on
which the decision is written, for example.
I will give you an example. A priority substance list assessment, a scientific
report on a substance, takes time some time.It is very thorough. Scientists
work at it. They do projections and talk with Health Canada. It is a very
thorough scientific analysis. However, by the time the decision comes out,
there may be new information. If, for example, a company or someone else feels
uncomfortable with the decision about that substance being toxic or not toxic,
and if there is new evidence that would match the extent of the danger posed by
the substance, and if they want to file information with the minister, the
program would review the information and make a recommendation as to whether or
not the minister should entertain a board of review. That has been the
principle. There must be new evidence.
A board of review implies that it is an independent view simply because the
people that have been involved in the assessment will be the ones reviewing the
Senator Hays: I am still questioning the nature of the appeal. It may work very
well, but its appearance is one of bias to the decision maker in the first,
second and third instances. I suppose that a complainant may well have recourse
to other actions under the legal system. In any event, it would be better if
there were some independence there.
I have one last issue to raise with the minister, and this is the first
opportunity I have had to do it with him in a public forum. I would ask for a
comment on the provisions of the bill that allow for the use of economic
instruments to deal with such things as greenhouse gas emissions. It is
interesting to me that in clause 322 the enabling legislation refers to
deposits, refunds and tradeable units, but it does not include the normal third
economic instrument, a pollution fee. I know that there is sensitivity in terms
of hydrocarbons, but pollution fees are a useful economic instrument, and they
might be used in sulphur or nitrogen compounds or so on. Perhaps you could
comment on that. Why would the government foreclose the use of that kind of
economic instrument? Perhaps they have not, and there may be an answer to that
Perhaps this would also be the occasion to make a general comment on the time
frame within which you see us perhaps using some of these provisions to deal
with some of these problems to which we have committed ourselves. I am
thinking, of course, of the climate change issue when I ask that question.
Mr. Anderson: Again, on the history of the particular piece of legislation,
which words are in and which ones are out, with the 470 amendments that altered
the bill? I will leave that to the people who followed the process through. I
do not know at what point this was put in or other words were taken out.
Perhaps Mr. Lerer could comment on that.
Mr. Harvey Lerer, Director General, Office of the Canadian Environmental
Protection Act, Department of the Environment: I do not believe that there have
been any changes to these provisions as a result of the process in the house.
Tradeable permits are mentioned, as you pointed out. Cost recovery provisions
are also dealt with in this part of the bill.
With respect to pollution fees, I would comment that I am not sure that the
government has ruled them out. In terms of setting pollution fees, there may be
other instruments of government or other laws passed by Parliament that might
be more suitable vehicles for structures such as that, senator. It was deemed
that this may not be the most effective legislation in order to introduce the
idea of pollution fees.
Senator Hays: I would rather see it here than in the Income Tax Act, quite
Senator Chalifoux: Minister, I congratulate you on accepting this great
challenge. Canada, our country, is a very young country. It is a little more
than 100 years old. We have gone from Red River carts to people in space. The
environment must be one of the most dynamic and urgent issues we face today,
especially in our country.
I should like to comment on an issue I debated with some of your officials
yesterday on the interpretation in the definitions.
In Canada, we have the Arctic, we have Southern Canada, and we have the lost
people in the mid-Canada corridor. The mid-Canada corridor is anywhere from
south of 60 to just north of Edmonton. I have been dealing with issues
regarding our people in those areas for many years. They seem to be forgotten.
In that area, we have the aboriginal people, the First Nations, we have a large
population of the Métis, and we also have some Inuit. You talked about
the food chain in the Arctic, but you omitted the food chain in the mid-Canada
corridor, which is also very important.
I would like to state once again that in clause 3, under the definitions of
aboriginal government, you are effectively eliminating any consultation or need
for consultation with the Métis and the Inuit in those areas. The Métis
and the Inuit in those areas are not under the Indian Act. At the moment, we are
aware of only one aboriginal government that is, as related to this
interpretation, and that is the Sechelt band.
We, as aboriginal people, are the keepers of the land, especially in those
areas. We live on traditional food and live a traditional lifestyle. If I do
not hear the coyotes howling, then I am lost and my spirit is lonesome and I
must go back. That is how we live.
Yet under this bill here there is no reason for any of your enforcement officers
or researchers to consult with the Métis, nor with the Inuit, nor with
the communities of First Nations people who do not live on reserves.
Second, I want to know the relationship between this bill and the provincial
agreements. Many people do not realize that over 60 per cent of Canadian rivers
flow north. I will use Alberta as a prime example because I come from there.
The pulp mills have absolutely destroyed several of our rivers, the Wapiti
being one. The old Procter & Gamble pulp mill in Grande Prairie has done
great damage. Our fish are toxic. We have mercury in our lakes. Our people now
cannot eat the meat from infected animals and birds. We also have the issue of
the toxic waste disposal plant in the Swan Hills area, which is polluting
Lesser Slave Lake.
What can this bill do to address those issues with the Government of Alberta?
We also have a large pollution issue in the oil industry. One man, who has been
charged with sabotaging the oil batteries, is out on bail. A young girl died
violently because of this issue. How does this bill deal with those issues and
with the provinces?
Also, PCBs and other substances are showing up in women's breast milk. Our young
women are suffering. In six months, we have seen six young women die of cancers
which had never before been noted in our area. My daughter was one of them. How
does this bill protect the people in the mid-Canada corridor and in the North
Mr. Anderson: Thank you, senator. You have eloquently stated the challenges that
are before us. I will do my best in a brief time to touch on some of your
You have been generous in your comment that this is a daunting task. I recognize
that. We have considerable ground to cover. We have considerable challenges as
yet unseen. This will be a major problem for the government as a whole and for
other governments as well.
Your comments with respect to the mid-Canada corridor and the peoples of that
area are correct. You have identified a group of people who are perhaps not as
visible as the people of Nunavut have been because of various developments. It
is ironic that in Canada's history of European contact, those people were in
fact best known in the first centuries through the Hudson's Bay Company. The
contact with people in that area resulted in the birth of the Métis
People persist in thinking that Canada has 130 years of history. It does not; it
has 500 years. If we look at the period of history before Confederation, that
was when that mid-Canada corridor was the best known part of the country to the
Europeans. It is important that we do not overlook that. We sometimes look back
at the historical record and recognize that what we have today is not
necessarily exactly as it should be.
You are correct in the reference to aboriginal people in the interpretation
clauses. I come to this bill late in the process, just in the last three weeks.
The bill itself has been going on for six years. I really have no explanation
nor apology to give to you other than to say that it probably was a
rough-and-ready measure. I am sure, with your constant reminders, that we will
not forget this issue when we implement the bill. Nothing in the bill prevents
the recognition of the Métis people, nor the aboriginal people who live
in the mid-Canada corridor.
I have heard you very clearly, as I frequently do. I know that I will not be
allowed to forget the need to have that consultation and perhaps
representation. You and I will undoubtedly discuss this further. I recognize
that you have a very valid point in that regard.
With respect to agreements with provinces and with respect to pulp mills, we are
definitely moving ahead. In my experience on the West Coast of British
Columbia, I have had a long and somewhat unhappy environmental interaction with
pulp mills over the decades. When you reach my age, you talk in decades, not
Furans and dioxins have been dramatically reduced and, to some degree,
essentially eliminated. I will ask for comments on that from my officials.
You spoke of mercury. Mercury from point sources has been dramatically reduced
but we now have airborne mercury problems. There is no question that mercury
pollution of water systems within Canada from airborne pollution is an
increasing problem. As I suggested earlier, I do not want to get lost in the
technicalities of the debate on one bill and miss addressing the air quality
issues, which we must take up with the United States. Incidentally, I will be
meeting with a representative of United States EPA in about six weeks' time.
The situation has improved. We will have a better opportunity to prevent these
types of problems through listing and virtually eliminating the substances.
That is a positive point, regardless of where one lives in Canada. I am
specifically leaving aside the issue of toxic waste disposal, although I am
sure that there are benefits here.
The oil industry is also covered by this bill. There will be some improvements,
but the technical aspects of that question will be answered by the experts.
You mentioned the problem of cancers. Again, I do not have specific details on
this health issue. Senator Adams spoke effectively to this, and his comments
apply to other areas of Canada, too. By mentioning the North, we did not mean
to exclude other areas.
Cancer is a major concern. The importance of country food is simply
unrecognized. We live in a supermarket civilization, yet, in Canada, this is a
cultural tradition, a lifestyle where everyday meals can come from the land. It
is important to recognize that this issue does not involve quaint, unusual or
historic methods. Country food exists in the real, everyday lives of many
people. I think we will be working on that issue.
I accept your criticism that we must extend the discussion and extend the
analysis from the Arctic, including its coastal regions, to the southern
regions of the inland
Senator Chalifoux: How will this bill work with regard to issues of provincial
Mr. Guimont: I will make three points on this. First, under Bill C-32 we still
have so-called "equivalency provision" clauses. I will explain that
briefly. If, for example, we have a federal regulation that applies across the
land, and in a given province there is also a provincial regulation that
applies in that sector, PCB storage being a good example, the province may ask
to have an equivalency agreement with the federal government on the basis of
certain criteria being met. We obviously require certain criteria to be met. If
the criteria are met, an equivalency agreement is provided and the federal
regulation does not apply.
Under the new bill, after five years there is a review, if you wish, and
equivalency can continue, but it is not equivalency forever. That is the first
mechanism from a federal-provincial perspective.
The other mechanism is what we call administrative agreements, which are working
arrangements. As you know, in the area of the environment there is a federal
presence and a provincial presence. That is just the way the federation is
organized. The existing CEPA as well as the new one have powers that allow us
to enter into working arrangements under which we will not be doing the same
thing at the same place at the same time, which is not very effective. That
continues to exist.
Finally, in addition to those two basic mechanisms in the bill there is the
so-called "harmonization accord," which has been signed by provincial
ministers of the environment and the federal minister. Essentially, the
harmonization accord codifies the basic ingredients for federal-provincial
cooperation in the environment so that that we can work as efficiently as
possible to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves. That pretty well
describes how the mechanisms will be functioning.
Mr. Anderson: By the way, I will send a letter on Swan Hills, if you wish.
Senator Chalifoux: I would appreciate that.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: What kind of consultations have you had with the
provinces, and what was their reaction? Recently, on two important occasions,
the government of Quebec did not apply its own legislation when it decided to
skip public hearings on the environment in relation to electrical transmission
lines in the Saint-François and Charlevoix regions. Did the provinces
respond well? These are shared powers between the federal and provincial
governments. What is Quebec's position? Is it prepared to play by the rules in
Mr. Anderson: There were extensive consultations with the provinces and they
provided us with much valuable advice. It is very important for them to be
involved. Seventy per cent of the responsibility for the environment rests with
provincial governments, as opposed to 30 per cent for the federal government.
However, where there are clearly defined responsibilities relating to health or
the environment, for example, I am not required to consult the provinces so
that they can tell me what to do. As regards consultations and the position
taken by the various provinces, particularly the province of Quebec, Mr.
Guimont is in a better position than I to provide that information.
Mr. Guimont: First of all, while the Bill was being drafted, we maintained
ongoing contact with the provinces via teleconference to keep them informed of
developments as the work progressed. This gave us an opportunity to exchange
views and explain the reasons for our respective positions, in order that the
provinces would have a clear understanding of the changes being proposed. While
discussions were ongoing at the House of Commons committee, my colleague Harvey
Lerer was in touch with the provinces on an ongoing basis.
Second, with respect to the Toxic Substances Management Policy, a policy adopted
in 1996, it is important to mention that this federal policy has essentially
become a federal-provincial policy which is supported by the provincial
ministers of the Environment, including the minister for Quebec. The federal
policy on toxic substances was discussed and some changes have been made to the
wording, but the substantive policy is now national in scope and in that sense,
I explained earlier that the virtual elimination approach was a parallel between
this policy and the new legislation. Some provinces wanted assurances that what
was being proposed in the legislation with respect to virtual elimination --
found in sub-clauses 65(1) to 65(3) -- was consistent with the policy adopted
by the Council of Ministers of the Environment. The answer was yes.
Quebec has a specific position on some sections of the legislation and feels it
has the legal capacity to manage its environmental problems. In that sense, it
does not necessarily feel comfortable with the bill as proposed.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: What does it not feel comfortable with? Are the issues
legal, scientific or operational?
Mr. Guimont: I am afraid I cannot answer that question. As I recall, a letter
was sent to our Minister of the Environment.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Even if there is some controversy, do the provinces of
Canada as a whole go along with the spirit, philosophy and provisions of Bill
C-32? Will the provinces take into account the new legislation and take
inspiration from it at the appropriate time?
Mr. Guimont: My own contacts with them would lead me to believe that the
provinces understand what we are seeking to do with this bill and that it is
only by implementing it that we will be able to gauge its success. Most of the
time, people understand these provisions. The provinces and we at the
Department of the Environment will see whether certain changes are required at
the implementation stage, but in principle, people understand the various
proposals and the content of the legislation, as it currently stands.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: The last time I examined an environmental issue was in
the context of a bill that dealt with MMT and was also controversial.
So, considering that your Department has not given us any evidence that would
give rise to a reasonable doubt with respect to toxicity, can you tell us how
things currently stand in relation to that issue and whether this Bill offers
an intelligent solution to that problem?
I am sure you can understand that as a legislator, in this case, I feel
uncomfortable about having to not apply legislation because we have not
received the necessary studies from either the Department of Health or the
Department of the Environment.
Can you tell us whether those studies are in the process of being carried out,
whether they have been provided to you and whether this bill will finally give
us the answers that we expected to get when discussing the bill dealing with
Mr. Guimont: Basically, if it is demonstrated that MMT can affect human health,
the new legislation will allow us to take action. I should also point out that
Part 5 of the Bill provides for new powers that will allow us to make
regulations if a particular substance affects a vehicle's anti-pollution
That is not the case at this time. As far as MMT is concerned, two specific
points were raised in this area. We believe that this substance, as a result of
the manganese that is present, may affect human health -- Health Canada has
already made an assessment of that -- and that MMT has an impact on electronic
on-board diagnostic systems found in new cars. If that were to prove to be the
case, the CEPA would clearly give us the authority to take action.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Who will be making that assessment? What process does
the legislation provide for that would allow a decision to be made with respect
to MMT? Are you the ones who will initiate the studies and conduct the
follow-up, or will we have to wait until automobile manufacturers commission a
study and provide us with the results? What mechanism in this legislation will
allow us to receive that information and have it validated by your department?
Mr. Guimont: As far as human health is concerned, scientific studies have been
conducted by researchers. And it is not surprising that they relate to
manganese, another heavy metal or another emitting organic substance. I do not
have any details on that because this information is collated by Health Canada,
but I do know that studies are underway or will be carried out in due time. That
information is passed on to Health Canada which then assesses it in relation to
the results of an evaluation it made in 1994, as I recall.
As far as vehicles are concerned, a comprehensive program -- worth millions of
dollars -- was introduced by automobile manufacturers in the United States and
it is almost at an end. It has been in place for several years now. It is a
complex program, in the sense that different models of cars are assessed
simultaneously by driving them to accumulate a lot of mileage and thereby
determine the effects. The information generated by the program is technical
information that is not yet available. When it is available, it will be
thoroughly examined and evaluated, and once that has been done, further steps
will be taken. I am not really in a position to tell you what is being done at
Health Canada at this time, but as far as the American program is concerned,
that information will only be available towards the end of the year.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Will you be responsible for the follow-up? If so, is
there a schedule in place for performing that follow-up? I understood you to
say that the legislation will allow you to take action once you have the
information, but are we always going to rely on American studies or did you
expressly request that the American studies be provided to you at a specific
It seems to me that over a long period, it is not a very credible approach to
simply wait for another country to provide evidence that a given product
damages vehicles. I understand that for Health Canada, in terms of the
legislation, it is the operational plan that you mentioned a little earlier. In
that respect, I agree with you that a law is credible when it can be enforced
and when monitoring mechanisms are in place. However, what steps do you take in
the field to carry out that kind of follow-up on MMT and subsequently take the
kind of action that this Bill provides for?
Mr. Guimont: I would like to make one clarification with respect to CEPA. It is
not only a question of using the legislation; there must be a scientific case.
That is very important. That scientific case has to be documentated in the same
way one might document the toxicity of another heavy metal, for example, or
another substance. It is not just a matter of saying that because the mechanism
is there, we will use it. The mechanism is there, and so are the powers, but
they are predicated on a scientific approach.
As for the Americans' timetable, they began their work several years ago.
Unfortunately, I do not have those details with me now, but I can certainly
send them to you. We are in contact with American car manufacturers. As I said,
their study is almost completed. When the information is available, we will
obviously be reviewing it to get a clear understanding of what they did and how
they went about it. We will be examining the validity of the information, the
study conclusions, and so forth.
And the situation is similar as regards human health. I know there were a number
of seminars dealing with the effects of manganese and neuro-toxicity. At this
time, however, I have no details as to how these different elements will be
coming together in the next little while or whether those seminars have already
resulted in specific findings that are available; but your question is a clear
one and I can certainly send you that information.
Mr. Anderson: If the Americans have a clear scientific case, used appropriate
means and conducted their study appropriately, there would be no reason to
reject their results, but we will be the ones deciding whether or not they
conducted their study properly. You are right: we can't look at the entire
study from the very beginning, but the fact is we often accept scientific
information from European or American sources because it is the best.
Senator Robichaud: You referred in your presentation to pollution caused by car
vehicle emissions. You also referred to small machines: lawnmowers, chain saws,
outboard motors, and so on. You say at the present time, you do not have the
tools you need to implement an emission control regime for such machines.
What impact will these measures you will be implementing have, in your view?
Will they lead to a decrease in atmospheric pollution caused by small machine
Mr. Anderson: Many toxic emissions are produced by small engines, including
sea-doos. Running a lawnmower for one hour generates just as much pollution as
driving a car 500 kilometres. So something clearly must be done. Twenty-five
years ago in California, it was decided that people could not use liquid fuels
for their barbecues because they increased pollution levels. We do not have the
authority to do that except in certain cases for vehicles. Yet small engines
result in significant air pollution.
Mr. Guimont: I would be pleased to send you a table that clearly sets out the
quantities of emissions produced by two-stroke engine vehicles. Qualitatively,
two-stroke engines use more fuel. That means they release more dioxide, carbon
monoxide and other gases. In addition, they are not equipped with an
anti-pollution system. A two or three-horse power lawnmower is equipped with
nothing more than a small piece of metal to reduce noise levels, but that is
about it. The comparison the Minister made earlier between a lawnmower and a
car certainly puts things in perspective.
In the case of outboard motors and other summer recreational equipment used on
water, more pollution is produced in hot weather. That kind of weather provides
optimal conditions for the formation of urban smog. What is important is not
only the number of engines being operated, but their accumulation over time.
When you add them all up -- trimmers, lawnmowers, four-wheel personal vehicles
and outboard motors -- even though you may have the impression there aren't that
many of them, perhaps the conditions under which they are being operated
increase their impact--even if it isn't directly proportionally to the quantity
of emissions and even if the emissions in principle are higher than those of a
four-stroke engine, such as a car that is well equipped to reduce vehicle
Senator Robichaud: I agree that one may generate more pollution than the other.
But are you going to encourage Canadians to buy four-stroke rather than
two-stroke engines, or are you going to ask that anti-pollution equipment be
installed on these small machines?
Mr. Anderson: We are going to do both. In certain areas, a four-stroke engine is
preferable. There are other ways of improving the technology used in small
engines, such as two-stroke engines. It is entirely possible to improve their
effectiveness and, in cooperation with industry, I think we will be able to
Senator Robichaud: Let me repeat my question. What do you think the effect of
this will be? You talk about the increased frequency of asthma in children as a
result of this kind of pollution. If you have identified these kinds of
equipment as being problematical, you are surely going to want to know what
kind of results you will get with this.
Mr. Anderson: It is increased atmospheric pollution in general. It is not just
that a young man or woman in a boat equipped with a two-stroke engine are being
affected. It is the contribution to general atmospheric pollution that concerns
us, and we can provide you with figures with respect to how they contribute to
Mr. Guimont: We have assessments. Along with the table, I could send you a
projection of what this would mean. We are working with pie charts showing how
they contribute to the levels of certain gases in the atmosphere, as the
minister was saying. We are able to determine what that contribution is in a
Senator Robichaud: You're going to tell me that a certain percentage is due to
such and such a machine, but what kind of results do you expect to obtain when
you introduce measures to control these emissions? By how much will emission
levels be reduced? Two per cent, five per cent?
Mr. Anderson: It is impossible to answer that without consulting the industry
itself. At this particular time, we do not have a complete system in place that
would allow us to determine what contributions are being made by such and such
a sector. With the new legislation, we will be able to consult industry
stakeholders and to figure out what to do about this kind of problem. If
necessary, we would even provide a financial incentive. That is a possibility;
nothing has been ruled out. If we see that a certain legislative level is
required, we will be in a position to act.
At this time, as long as the legislation is not in place and that consultations
have not begun, it simply is not possible to provide detailed figures. We want
to do our best, but we always have to consider costs.
Mr. Guimont: We have had discussions with various manufacturers of small engines
and a number of them agree with what the minister has described. We would like
to reach a prior agreement with those manufacturers, so as to benefit from
reductions now, without waiting for regulations, because that may take some
time. It would be a parallel process. It would be preferable to have memoranda
of understanding in place with various companies so that we can achieve results
in the short term. However, that does not answer your question with respect to
the reductions in emissions we can expect. I do not have that information with
Senator Robichaud: I just wanted to know whether you had made any projections.
You talk about significant measures that you will be in a position to take
through this legislation. Atmospheric pollution is very important to people
with respiratory problems. Do you have any idea to what extent those people
will feel better after that occurs?
Mr. Anderson: We are not at that stage yet, because we do not currently have the
opportunities the new legislation will provide to liaise with industry
stakeholders and talk about possible improvements and how to go about achieving
The Deputy Chairman: One of the faults I found in the bill, and I touched on it
yesterday, is that we seem to be concentrating on point pollution. You know
well the lower mainland of B.C. and the Hamilton-Toronto corridor. Perhaps we
should be looking at the situation in the way those in the Los Angeles basin
have been looking at it. One has to start putting ring fences on pollution. In
other words, one more lawn mower is too much. That gets very heavily into
pollution credits and emission trading.
I wish to know if the department has spent enough time thinking about getting us
ready for a pollution-credit, emission-trading system in Canada, bearing in
mind that the provinces must be taken into consideration.
Mr. Anderson: We can certainly learn a great deal from Los Angeles. I remember
having some dealings with a southern California air quality board on a tanker
terminal proposal that would have released substantial amounts of hydrocarbon.
They bought up various other polluters in order to equal the amount of
pollution they would cause, which is the process you are describing, senator.
They bought up every single dry cleaner within miles of that terminal. What
people did for dry cleaning, I do not know. However, they were able to say that
they had made a contribution. The proposal for the terminal collapsed. Thus, I
never did find out the ultimate conclusion.
Certainly, trading is an issue that will come up. This bill does not really get
into that to the degree that, perhaps, your question does. We will have to be
flexible and look at every new process. There are downsides to the trading of
emissions, and environmental groups will quickly point them out to us. On the
other hand, it is sometimes a trade-off between what is bad and what is worse,
or sometimes between what we hope is good and what is less good.
We will be looking at some other measures in that regard. The primary point you
make, senator, about looking to other jurisdictions is a point well taken. We
do not want to reinvent the wheel. There are many important examples of that.
When we have so much air pollution coming from south of the border, the critical
factor for us is to work with the American administration so that we can create
a standard system, as was done to a degree on acid rain about a decade ago.
Acid rain was not a problem overcome; it is still a problem. However, at least
we made some substantial improvements with respect to it.
There are many, many potential allies within the United States. Perhaps, when
their forces are evenly balanced, our concerns might tip the balance in favour
of improvement. We have to play a role in that American system. I liken this to
the work I did on the Pacific salmon treaty or, prior to that, on the Alaska
pipeline issue where Canadian interests were involved. We had to pick the right
opportunities and fora to ensure our interests were properly taken into
Standard government-to-government discussions are sometimes not as effective as
involvement in the system. We will not be overlooking any opportunity to use
American examples or to work with Americans where their interests coincide with
Senator Hays: We in this committee have spent quite a bit of time dealing with
the reduction of air emissions, whether they are sulphur or not, under the U.S.
Clean Air Act. You also mentioned the California air resources board and the
air quality management boards in each of the air basins where people are trying
to reduce emissions. You hinted at that being a good example for Canada. Perhaps
I could ask you to elaborate on that point. Obviously, you are familiar with
Do you see any benefit in copying, or using as a precedent at least, some of
those means of reducing air emissions? They have a much stronger incentive in
some areas than do we, particularly because of the low level ozone issue.
Do you see something that they do from which we might benefit? They have a sort
of multi-pronged approach. They use command and control together with these
In terms of the voluntary approaches, how are they working toward achieving
Mr. Anderson: One example, senator, is related to Senator Robichaud's point with
respect to outboard motors on a summer day. Please forgive me if my three weeks
in the job have not given me the adequate background to answer your questions
as I should like.
We do not have enough precision in some of our tools to deal with the extreme
situation. There may only be 5 to 15 days a year when you really want to have a
certain level of restriction in place, where you have the worst conditions.
That is very much a local or, sometimes, provincial decision. Sometimes, we
tend to have general prohibitions as opposed to the more specific in terms of
time. That is one example where I think we could be more effective.
Obviously, once certain levels are exceeded, we reach critical health concerns.
This is very clear from just a look at temperature and air quality, which are
correlated with hospital admissions. Thus, if you can just deal with those few
days, you may be more effective.
I may be wrong in assuming the Americans are able to do that better than we are,
or that they have examples that are better than our best examples. Certainly,
they face more severe problems on many of these air quality issues. That is the
type of thing I would be looking at.
With respect to emissions, you have raised a good point. How far can you be out
of sync with an American system when the industry is integrated in terms of car
manufacturing and the oil industry, et cetera? That is a question I want to
look at very closely, because we have objectives with respect to sulphur, which
means reducing sulphur emissions to about one-tenth of what they currently are.
Yet, we do not want to do it in a way that creates such disruption that the
cost of achieving it is in excess of the benefits. Once again, we have to look
at what the Americans are doing to ensure that we have some sort of sympathetic
system so that we are not creating distortions.
There are many examples of higher costs that have hit Canada from our misjudging
what the Americans would do. Perhaps the most famous one is metrification, when
we assumed the Americans would go to the metric system. We guessed wrong. As a
result, industry had high costs as a result of setting up two systems. We do
have to ensure that, in some areas, we are in lock-step with the Americans.
Senator Hays: It is a voluntary approach. For example, we have in place a number
of suggested codes of practice and some memorandums of understanding that are a
standard for the insulation of a house that will reduce energy inputs. The
voluntary challenges program on air emissions falls into that category as well.
Could you comment on how you see them fitting in under your challenge of
meeting the objective in terms of rewarding or providing further incentives to
improve the environment in a number of areas on a voluntary basis through these
MOUs and codes of practice?
Mr. Anderson: The voluntary basis, senator, is obviously the ideal, where people
themselves voluntarily behave in a manner that is socially desirable. The
problem is the "hole in the bucket" situation. If you are in a
situation where there are some who are anti-social in their behaviour, you
sometimes have a hole in the bucket. Others say they must be similar and must
meet certain cost levels, so therefore they must act the same way and you do
not achieve very much through your voluntary measure. Sometimes it is a
question of virtually everyone being responsible, but a few are not, and
sometimes the sum total, because of the few who are not, does not add up to a
great deal so you do not bother with it.
A big problem is the situation where one or two are being irresponsible. You
then give incentives to those who are responsible, and you have quite high
costs. If you put in a command and control system, you then ensure that
everyone is responsible, and the cost is then borne by the price of the
product. Instead of a taxpayer's subsidy, you have a price-of-product
There is no way to be categorical. My preference is always for a voluntary
approach; my preference is always to work as cooperatively as we can with
industry or with the provinces, or whatever. However, there are times when,
even to make the voluntary system effective, you still need the hammer at the
end of it. You need some compulsion or some command and control. If you have it
in place, it may never be used, but the fact that it is there will mean that
the voluntary system will work.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much. The last statement probably also
applies to how the committee is being run.
You have been most informative. I think all the senators have asked their
questions, and I am sure that those who left will be studying the record today
very assiduously. They may even tape the CPAC and play it back.
Senator Robichaud: Mr. Minister, it is unfortunate that the chairman invited the
other Tory members to leave the committee, because I think it would have been
quite informative for them to listen to you.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you. We will reconvene at 1:30.