Skip to main content

ENVI Committee Meeting

Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at

Previous day publication Next day publication




[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Wednesday, November 24, 1999

• 1547


The Chair (The Hon. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We can start. Like we say in French, punctuality is the courtesy of kings. This is what I was told in school.

I would like to welcome Mr. Cardin, a new member of the committee. We hope that he will find our work interesting.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are continuing our study on the management and use of pesticides in Canada.


We have had considerable delays in recent meetings because of lack of quorum. Your chair has inquired about this with other committees and found out that this committee has adopted a rule that is more burdensome, let's say, on the chair, in order to start the meetings. When we had our first organizational meeting, we adopted a rule whereby we could start with witnesses when two opposition parties and five members were present.

I've been told that virtually all other standing committees have instead adopted a rule whereby the hearing of witnesses, and I repeat only the hearing of witnesses, can start if at least three members, including at least one opposition member, are present.

I fully understand the predicament of the opposition parties and the hectic schedules they have, trying to be in five places at the same time. Therefore, I can fully understand why there are times when they have to appear later or they can't appear at all. That also happens at times to the government party, so there really isn't anyone specifically who has to be pointed out in this type of dilemma.

I'm seeking your cooperation in adopting a motion that will allow us, from now on, to start when we have a minimum of three members, including one opposition member, to replace the present rule. That will, as I said earlier, bring us in alignment with the same rule that is adopted by the other standing committees.

I would appreciate it if someone would move such a motion, so we can have a brief discussion and then possibly a vote.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): I will move the motion.

• 1550

The Chair: We have the motion moved by Mr. Reed. I imagine there are people who want to ask questions or comment. So I will give the floor to Mr. Jaffer.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, Ref.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just want to make sure, as you mentioned in your preamble just now, that the motion will strictly be with regard to hearing witnesses. When I read this motion and it says “hold meetings and receive evidence”, I don't think it's as clear as it could be. Perhaps we just want to say “to hear witnesses”, and any other type of meeting will require the proper quorum that was already established.

The Chair: That is an excellent point, and we could entertain it as an amendment on your part.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Okay.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Are there any other questions or comments?

(Amendment agreed to)

(Motion as amended agreed to)

The Chair: On behalf of the members of the committee, I welcome you and apologize for the delay. Today we have Shannon Coombs, a director from the Canadian Manufacturers of Chemical Specialities Association—welcome—and Peter McLeod, the chair of the joint pesticide standing committee, welcome.

Then, from the Urban Pest Management Council of Canada, we have the vice-president and executive director, Wendy Rose. Welcome.

Please make a statement of about 10 minutes per organization, so there can be a good round of questions. Who would like to go first?

Ms. Wendy Rose (Vice-President and Executive Director, Urban Pest Management Council of Canada): Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in your study on the use of pesticides.

In my presentation on behalf of the Urban Pest Management Council of Canada, I will focus on the non-agricultural uses of the products, discuss issues of concern, and examine ways of improvement to ensure the responsible use of the products, whether by the industry, by professional applicators, or by homeowners in Canada.

The Urban Pest Management Council of Canada was formed by the Crop Protection Institute of Canada in June 1997. It represents the manufacturers, formulators, and distributors of pest management products for professional and consumer non-agricultural applications. Sectors include nursery trades, lawn care, golf course, forestry, industrial vegetation management, the structural industry, and retail lawn and garden products.

I have worked for the Crop Protection Institute for close to nine years.

Through both the Urban Pest Management Council, and prior to that the Crop Protection Institute, our association has been actively involved in urban sector program development and pesticide regulatory issues at municipal, provincial, and federal levels for over 15 years. We are contacted on an ongoing daily basis by user groups and municipal, provincial, and federal regulatory agencies across Canada for direction and assistance in the development of responsible pest management programs for Canadian communities. We have assisted many communities right across Canada in the development of legislation.

As a bit of background on our industry, in 1997 non-agricultural pesticide product sales represented 9% of total industry sales in Canada. The other 91% of sales were in agriculture. The 9% figure represented both professional uses and retail products.

Our industry is a very important one. In the non-edible horticultural sector of agriculture, the nursery/floriculture industry, which is only a small part of it, represents the fourth-largest farm cash receipts—after wheat, corn, and soybeans—of all agricultural crops. The landscape/nursery floriculture turf sectors are the fastest growing segments of agriculture. Today, gardening is the number one hobby of North Americans over the age of 35, and consumer interest is growing.

Why are pesticides used in urban environments? Pesticides control weeds, rodents, insect pests, and fungal diseases. The benefits of pesticides lie in the ability to manage a pest problem that could become out of control and threaten human health, the health of pets and plants, or the quality of homes, lawns, schools or businesses.

• 1555

For example, insecticides are used in controlling termites or fleas in homes, rodenticides are used for controlling rodents, herbicides are used on lawns for controlling dandelions, and fungicides are used to keep plants alive during a disease outbreak. Fungicides are an important component in golf course maintenance, as greens and tees can be destroyed by fungal diseases in as little as 24 hours.

In terms of the products on the market, there is some confusion out there. The three categories of products are restricted, commercial, and domestic. Commercial class products are intended for general use in commercial or professional activities. Golf course operators and lawn-care companies use these. They may have restricted uses. Labelling for restricted class products must indicate the nature of the restriction.

The domestic class products are the homeowner products you buy at Canadian Tire and Home Depot. I think it is very important to note that the PMRA, in their evaluation of the products, takes into consideration the profile of the user and then determines what categories they are used in and the application.

The regulatory system for pesticides in Canada is considered one of the most stringent in the world. Our industry must meet over 200 tests that examine the value and human and environmental risks associated with the products. Human health testing required by PMRA includes applicator and bystander studies, including the consideration of subpopulations such as children. A pesticide registration may be cancelled at any time if adverse effects on humans or the environment are suspected.

The provinces are responsible for regulating the post-registration, sale, use, storage, display, transportation, and disposal of federally registered products. This could include training and licensing of vendors. They may have laws for noxious weeds to control things such as ragweed and poison ivy. It varies by province.

Municipal regulators have the authority to regulate the products on municipal properties, unless they have received authority from the province, through provincial acts, to go beyond municipal land. Only one province, Quebec, has done that, and there are approximately 28 pesticide bylaws in that province. For the last five years we have had a consultant in Quebec who calls on municipalities to monitor the situation and determine if that number is going up.

On our recommendations, the Urban Pest Management Council supports a transparent, predictable regulatory process that is based on reliable, accurate data and sound science. Actual data and scientifically sound information must be used to register the products, modify them, or revoke tolerances. As someone who spends a lot of time in communities across Canada, the PMRA evaluation is critical for those understanding pest management and the products.

Next is harmonization of regulatory systems. For many of the non-agricultural sectors, product availability in Canada is an issue. The cost to register products in Canada, in many instances, does not align with the market size. Because of this, fewer new products are brought into Canada by the industry. Canadian professional user groups are at a disadvantage compared to their international counterparts in terms of product availability.

Continued efforts to streamline the system to reduce costs through minor-use programs is key to ensuring the most current and advanced technology is available for the non-agricultural user groups in Canada. Globally, we support the PMRA's work toward harmonization with NAFTA partners and encourage its continual accelerated progress with OECD countries toward globally accepted requirements for pesticide regulation and mutual acceptance of data.

The next recommendation is very important to me, as I spend a lot of time in communities across Canada. It is to maintain support for federal and provincial regulatory authority. Municipal empowerment of pesticide regulations is not in the best interest of Canadian communities. On the surface, municipal empowerment of pesticide regulations sounds like a straightforward issue. However, through experience with many communities for the past 15 years, I would like to discuss this important topic and industry concerns.

• 1600

Municipal governments rarely have sufficient resources or technical expertise to make scientifically sound decisions concerning the use of pest management products. Very few communities in Canada have the scientific depth to evaluate these products from a health or environmental perspective. Determination on the use of the product has been, and should continue to be, the role of the most senior regulatory body in Canada. One must question the need, after the federal and provincial regulators, for a third regulatory system around their use.

Allowing municipalities to regulate pesticides beyond their own properties could result in the reduced availability and use of test products by consumers to control pests and weeds that carry disease, pollen, and infectious germs. To give municipal governments the authority to make decisions beyond their own properties could result in the decline of property and land values for citizens, businesses, and institutions.

A pest management strategy that works in one town or city in Canada is not necessarily what another community desires or can achieve. In Ontario, communities two hours apart can experience two to three times the difference in pest populations due to temperature control in the summer and due to different geography.

I have found in my discussions that, as I stated, the role of the federal regulatory body is very important in this item, in this decision. Most communities take great pride in the maintenance of their properties. I was involved with a hearing with the provincial government recently in which two municipalities were on a panel with me around this issue, and they did not want regulatory authority. So I raise this issue purely because I know it is of concern.

In terms of other recommendations, re-establish the PMRA's national strategy for urban landscapes. In January 1997, the PMRA established a national strategy for urban landscapes. The pest management industry, user groups, special interest groups, and government were represented, with the primary focus being the development of a nationally integrated pest management education program. We were on the committee, and we would encourage the re-establishment of this group to continue its good work toward professional and public knowledge of integrated pest management practices.

Fifth, establish a consumer labelling program. We should add an industry and government task force to examine current labels on domestic products for consumers. I am involved right now with a national retail survey examining the challenges in the retail environment in the selling of these products and their stewardship practices. What is coming back is the difficulty in understanding the label—particularly for some user groups—and the ease in reading the labels for domestic users. It should be more user-friendly and easier to read. That is one recommendation that I would strongly encourage. The EPA and industry in the United States started such an initiative two years ago, and I do believe it will go a long way to ensuring better use of the products by consumers.

In terms of stewardship programs that we are involved with, I mentioned the retailers' strategy. We will be launching a stewardship strategy for retail markets in the next year. We are looking at how the products are being sold and what training is required at the department stores and at the nurseries to better ensure how the products are understood and used.

Next year, we will be doing industry statistics. We will examine the volume, as well as the sale of non-agricultural products. We will be sharing that with the government as well as with the public.

This year we launched our manufacturing standards for those companies that manufacture, package, blend, or formulate our products. The standards are focused on occupational health, environmental issues, safety, loss prevention, and policy procedures. We want to ensure that our employees and communities are protected, as well as the environment.

Last, we just finished funding an educational document for grade 12 science students. We did it along with Landscape Ontario and the Crop Protection Institute, and it discusses the issue of pesticides in the urban environment, presents all sides of the issue, and educates on label use, on the products, and how they are to be used responsibly.

• 1605

In closing, thank you very much for the opportunity to present on the non-agricultural uses of the products. We support the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and a strong science behind the regulatory agency. Because I spend most of my time in the provinces and in the municipalities, it is one of the most important messages I put out to the public, because very few Canadians are aware of the stringent system in place to protect them. Our organization would therefore be very pleased to sit on any government task force for consultation with regard to this issue.

Thank you.


The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Rose.

We will now hear the representative from the Canadian Manufacturers of Chemical Specialties Association. Do you want to start, Ms. Coombs?


Ms. Shannon Coombs (Director, Government Relations, Canadian Manufacturers of Chemical Specialties Association): Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of Parliament. It is a pleasure to be here today to address this committee regarding your current review of the management and use of pesticides in Canada. We are also pleased that you're including an evaluation of the performance of the PMRA in preventing pollution and protecting human health and the environment.

As you can see, I have brought some of our member companies' products here to clearly illustrate what our members produce and who our association represents. More often than not, people do not realize these particular products, like Tide, Comet, and ant traps, are regulated by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

To provide you with a quick overview of who we are, CMCS is a national association representing a $1.4 billion industry providing jobs to over 15,000 Canadians. Our 65 member companies are small, medium- and large-sized manufacturers, processors, and distributors of household cleaning products that include soaps and detergents, such as Tide and Palmolive; sanitizers and disinfectants, like Lysol and Comet; deodorizers; pest control formulations; and automotive chemicals. As you can see, these products are often found in the family home. They provide safe and healthy settings for hospitals, day cares, schools, and restaurants. What do the products do? They control germs in your bathroom and your kitchen. They safeguard your home against insects, cockroaches, and rodents, all of which spread disease and contaminate food.

Our industry's success depends on consumer confidence that the products are effective, safe to use, and free from adverse effects on the environment. To gain this confidence, our member companies conduct extensive research and submit for review quality submissions that comply with all Canadian environmental health and safety regulations. We depend, as does the Canadian public, upon the efficient functioning of a predictable, rigorous, and timely registration system. This is particularly true for the registration of pest control products.

In our brief, we have outlined to the members of this committee some recommendations that will lead to an improved regulatory system and will benefit Canadians. Our brief and presentation are in two parts. One is an overview of the registration process as it affects our members and the other is our comments and concerns relating to three specific issues and two recommendations in the 1999 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The registration system in Canada is considered to be one of the most rigorous worldwide. To meet the regulations for registration in Canada, industry is required to submit extensive scientific and technical data for screening and review by the PMRA. The information provided includes product specifications, formulation, processing, packaging, weight, and details. Most importantly, scientific data to support the registration are required for evaluation by the PMRA to determine the product's effectiveness and the potential for adverse impacts on human health and the natural environment.

For example, to register—I'm going to use my ant trap—a new active ingredient for use in a simple ant trap will typically require the compilation of data that fills 24 binders when formatted. That's just the summary information. For such a product, the rigour of the scientific review to be conducted by the PMRA requires the company to file the supporting scientific data, and that would fill a U-Haul van. In our brief, we have outlined in more detail the rigours of the scientific review.

I'll now address three issues raised in the commissioner's report. They include the lengthy registration timelines, the national sales database, and the re-evaluation program.

• 1610

Among the commissioner's list of comments and recommendations were concerns about the timelines associated with the registration of products. In 1998, a third-party report, the Nephin report, noted that the PMRA takes 40% longer when reviewing products than do other major countries. To address some of these shortcomings and improve regulatory processes, the Nephin report made a number of specific recommendations for action within the PMRA, including increased consultation with all stakeholders, implementation of changes of procedures, and improving the knowledge of PMRA officials of regulatory processes in other jurisdictions. CMCS appreciates that the PMRA has made efforts to adopt the Nephin recommendations, but we also understand that they're severely limited in doing so due to the inappropriate management of resources and demands from numerous competing initiatives.

The second issue is the national sales database. As you know, the commissioner's report was highly critical of the government for not collecting sales data. For the past two years, CMCS has been a participant on the national sales database working group. The objective of this multi-stakeholder process is to develop a collection of data to address the needs of federal and provincial regulators, as well as other federal government departments. This process and the lessons learned will lead the industry to comply with mandatory reporting on an annual basis as of 2001. Prior to any regulations, our sector has agreed to voluntarily submit the data prior to this deadline.

I wish now to turn to an issue that we consider central to the problems of the PMRA, and that is re-evaluation. The re-evaluation of pesticides is one of a number of initiatives that the PMRA conducts, demanding considerable time and resources. The agency's management of this issue has caused great concern to the commissioner, who clearly stated that:

    ...the need to re-evaluate pesticides has been formally recognized by the federal government for over 13 years, and we expected that it would have developed a program to do so. We found Canada's track record to be one of inaction and unfulfilled commitments.

The commissioner is not alone in identifying the position of this government on re-evaluation. Our industry sector has had great difficulty in understanding the way in which re-evaluation is being addressed. In our brief, we clearly outline the clouded history of re-evaluation, beginning with the 1990 Pesticide Registration Review and followed by the 1994 government response; 1997 cost recovery; the 1998 Nephin report; and now the February 1999 paper, the discussion document, A New Approach to Re-Evaluation. As you can see, it has been a very long and winding road.

Given the mixed messages from the PMRA, the lack of action, and the inconsistencies in numbers, it is clear that the PMRA is in need of political direction. Despite consultations with stakeholders earlier this year, no action has been taken except to announce a particular class of organophosphates for re-evaluation. This is not even consistent with their latest document.

Our concerns are, and remain, the costing of the initiative, the overambitious timeframe, little detail, and ambiguity. CMCS supports re-evaluation and the government commitment of 10 per year, as outlined in the purple book government response, 1994. However, if the government commitment has changed, any such program must operate within the scope of what the government can afford; allocate resources; operate in a timely fashion; and harmonize with the U.S. EPA and the OECD.

In our estimation, if the PMRA continues with its current approach to managing issues, the registration system is in serious danger of breaking down. If this happens, industry's efforts to replace old technology with newer, safer products may be long delayed or, worse, never occur in Canada. Given the PMRA's flatlined budget, their current funding shortfalls, and the recent proposal for over 400 re-evaluations to be completed in six years, an approach is needed to prevent the pending breakdown.

At this time, CMCS respectfully requests consideration of an approach to ensure that the public interest is being served. Specifically, we propose that the standing committee include in its report to the Minister of Health a recommendation as follows: that the Minister of Health will instruct the PMRA to develop, in consultation with all stakeholders, a re-evaluation program that is affordable, operational, inclusive, maintains due process, and includes mechanisms that ensure accountability of the agency. The Minister of Health will also fund re-evaluation programs with a specific allocation of resources from Parliament. These funds would be in addition to and separate from the current funding received from Parliament and through user fees. To ensure accountability, any moneys provided must be specifically allocated to this initiative and full reporting must be required.

We believe this provides a reasoned approach to addressing current problems at the agency, and we're requesting the action for two reasons. We believe that the PMRA, upon its creation and within the program development, did not carry out Treasury Board program review evaluation tests appropriately. If PMRA had appropriately accomplished this, a program would have been established and adequate resources allocated.

• 1615

This government's position on program review gave the PMRA an incredible mandate but without sufficient funds to deliver a program of integrity. The agency may have been mismanaged, but program review stripped it of its ability to deliver its mandate. The current funding initiatives need to be examined.

It is our opinion that the above recommendation will assist and refurbish PMRA's program to deliver the protection of human health and the environment by minimizing risks associated with pest control products while enabling access to pest management tools.

We thank the committee for your time, and we're willing to answer any questions you have.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Coombs.

We are ready for a round of questions beginning with Mr. Jaffer.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank both presenters today for their presentations. I found it very useful.

I know that both organizations, and obviously the members of the organizations who are represented, take this issue of pesticides, and control and safety and everything, very seriously. Otherwise, you wouldn't be here today and you wouldn't invest the type of money you do in order to ensure it is respected.

I have a question in terms of how we are going to be looking at improving the regulatory aspect of the PMRA especially. When I look at the brief, the first recommendation of the Urban Pest Management Council of Canada suggests that any of the regulatory decisions that are going to be made be based on strict scientific standards, which I think is difficult for anyone not to agree with.

If I may ask, in the current state of the PMRA, what sorts of problems have you seen dealing with them that would suggest maybe there hasn't been that sort of strict scientific standard applied to regulatory decisions? If you could point out some of those examples, it would help us to understand where you're going in that direction.

Ms. Wendy Rose: In terms of the PMRA and their scientific standards, our industry, as I mentioned, is required to meet over 200 tests that examine environmental impacts and health impacts. I would not say it is necessarily with the PMRA, from the perspective of their science; it's maybe people not knowing about it and the public not being aware of it. I believe there was a study done in 1989 by Health and Welfare Canada, and at the time only 15% of Canadians knew there was regulatory system behind the products.

I think we need to reinforce the integrity and the strength of the science that is there and make Canadian citizens aware of the regime that is in place. I have seen definitely over the last 10 years where a different science comes forward, but it doesn't necessarily meet the rigour we have to go through as an industry.

We want to ensure that those very strict scientific standards always apply to our products before they are put onto the marketplace. It is very important for the confidence of the public.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: If I understand correctly, do you find that in its current state the PMRA, when they do make regulatory decisions, apply that sort of science, or are decisions made sometimes arbitrarily, in your opinion?

Ms. Wendy Rose: No. I find that the PMRA definitely, from a science perspective, is one of the most stringent systems. I am glad it is, in terms of my work with the public. It's more of an issue of ensuring that the integrity of the system is maintained—those very high scientific standards.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: I appreciate your taking that very seriously.

I have only one other question and it's to Ms. Coombs. In your presentation you spoke about, in some cases with the PMRA, the effects of high costing and the details and some of the things your organization has had to deal with in dealing with the PMRA. When I look at one of your first recommendations it talks about how in our review, in terms of making changes, the program should be inclusive, affordable, and operational. What sorts of suggestions would you make specifically in the area of having the PMRA be more inclusive?

• 1620

Ms. Shannon Coombs: In our brief we mentioned the recommendation that was in two parts. It's specifically targeted to the re-evaluation initiative. The reason why we want to be inclusive, and affordable and operational, is because there have been a lot of questions about the numbers, about how many products they will do. That's just been since the purple book in 1994 that there has been a change from 10 a year to 406.

So we would like the PMRA to provide a program that answers all our questions, and do it with all stakeholders.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: So it's about including organizations like yours in a more proactive way. Is that what you're trying to say?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: Yes.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: That's all I have.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Jaffer.


Mr. Cardin, please.

Mr. Serge Cardin (Sherbrooke, BQ): Thank you for being here. Your presentation was very interesting. You are lucky as several members of Parliament are here today. If you had come later, there might have been only three people to hear you given the motion that we just adopted. Therefore, I invite you to take advantage of your luck.

Ms. Rose, you seem to be saying that the costs of registration were not aligned with the size of the market. Do you mean to say that product safety and human health should in practice be subordinated to the ability of businesses to make profits?


Ms. Wendy Rose: No, that was not what I was saying. There are ways that I believe we can streamline the system by the sharing of data between Canada and the United States—harmonization of repertory data worldwide—that would eliminate duplication of effort that results in cost and that could speed up the process of getting some of these technologies in. Because we are 9% of industry sales in Canada, and we're very similar to small agricultural markets as well, the companies look at the market and look at the return they're going to get from the market. If the return is not there, they may not be apt to bring these products in.

I'm just indicating that there are ways whereby we could probably deal with this situation of streamlining the system by accepting other countries' data for similar products and having a harmonization of regulatory processes that would reduce costs all around.


Mr. Serge Cardin: You are referring to NAFTA at times when you talk about standards and regulation. In wanting to adjust to several other countries, don't we run the risk of bringing regulation down to the lowest common denominator?

• 1625


Ms. Wendy Rose: Again, I believe the process is underway. I know they have been doing this with some products already to find ways that EPA and the PMRA can work closer together to harmonize data. I don't believe anyone wants to lower standards. I believe everyone involved in this industry, the government regulators, will always ensure the highest standards from a health and environmental perspective for the products.

So I do not see that happening in any way. It is more a way of looking at the newer technology in terms of how can we get it through the systems faster and into the hands of the user groups.


The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Cardin.


Madame Kraft Sloan, Mr. Reed, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Herron, five minutes each, please.

Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

In the Urban Pest Management Council of Canada's brief, you said there were 200 tests that have to be undertaken on your products and that there are tests for subpopulations such as children. I'm wondering what kinds of tests they are. Do you know anything about these tests?

Ms. Wendy Rose: I'll refer you to Peter, our technical adviser here.

Personally speaking on this issue, I know the University of Guelph has done extensive testing on exposure with regard to lawn-care products. In fact, those studies are used worldwide. It's some of the best research that has been done in that area. They looked at a wide variety of audiences, had people walking across lawns, some with bare skin, some with clothing, looking at re-entry times, that kind of thing.

Peter, I'll let you talk about the other tests.

Mr. Peter McLeod (Chair, Joint Pesticide Standing Committee, Canadian Manufacturers of Chemical Specialties Association): I can generally answer this question in two major areas. One, in the basic toxicology studies that we complete for these products, the test species are tested over a whole lifetime of exposure, prenatal and after birth, and throughout the whole adult life of the test species. That's one area.

On the other side of the coin, in the exposure question—

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Human test species?

Mr. Peter McLeod: No. These would be surrogates that would be used. The test species range from mice, to rats, to dogs.

On the other side of the coin, on the exposure end of things, as Wendy mentioned, as far as the urban area goes recently, study requirements for transfer factors are taken into account. For example, tests are done whereby a lawn is sprayed and samples are taken from the lawn, from a roller, to try to duplicate the effects of a child walking on the lawn, rolling around on it, playing with pets. So those types of exposure studies are done and submitted to the Canadian government for evaluation before products are approved.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: So these tests take into account the different metabolic rates of children?

Mr. Peter McLeod: Not specifically for humans. As I said, the test species are done on surrogates, and a safety factor is applied to those to represent the differences, usually at least a hundredfold safety factor, between the test species and humans.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Does it take into consideration the cumulative and synergistic effects as well?

Mr. Peter McLeod: Currently, they are evaluated on a product-by-product basis. With new standards of science changing, those would be in effect shortly.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I was particularly interested in what you said about consideration of exposure to subpopulations such as children. So these tests themselves are only factoring in what you consider to be children's exposure, or the way children's metabolic rate may interact with these toxins. Is it exponential or linear?

Mr. Peter McLeod: On the exposure end of things, the tests for children are to mimic the amount of time children spend in these.... I have two young children. They spend a lot of time in our backyard, playing on the grass and swing sets and things like that. So it's to mimic the amount of time they're spending and the type of contact they would have with these types of environments.

• 1630

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I understand the contact issue and how children roll around on the grass. But does it take into consideration their body size—their body weight and the way they metabolize? As we all know, on the pharmaceutical side the relationship is not linear.

For example, if you have a 10% increase, you might have a 30% increase in absorption; so it's exponential. It's the way children metabolize; it's not that you're dealing with an entity that is one-third the weight, or 20% of the weight. It's not a linear relationship. Is this taken into consideration?

Mr. Peter McLeod: This is taken into consideration in the toxicity aspect, where the test species—they're not humans, mind you—are dosed throughout their entire lives. The maternal parent is dosed. When they have children, they're dosed, and so on throughout their whole life. And that is taken into consideration only with the safety factor. So any difference between a young...or an adult would be taken into consideration with a hundredfold safety factor between species.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay.

The Chair: Thank you, Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mr. Reed, followed by Mr. Jordan. You have five minutes, Mr. Reed.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

That was very enlightening, Mr. McLeod. I appreciate having an insight into the way the testing is done. I think it's the first time we've had exposure to that.

I share your concern, and we've heard quite often about the awkwardness and slowness of the approval process and the need for harmonization. The PMRA themselves, I think, would concede that moving into the harmonization area completely has been quite slow and with sort of halting steps. But I sympathize with the absolute need for something far more direct.

I think back to the days when detergents were loaded with phosphates, and I'm just old enough to remember that the bottom of the Credit River, which runs through my farm, had a crop of grass on it that you could walk over in your bare feet. That was the impact phosphates had.

There was obviously a process of approving alternatives to phosphates. I'm wondering now if there are alternatives, say, more friendly products, that are sitting on the market, not approved in Canada, but available, that might be even safer. I think we've moved in that green direction, that positive direction, but do we have products that are sitting there waiting that aren't getting approval?

Ms. Wendy Rose: I can talk from the professional user-group side, having been involved with the lawn-care industry, the golf course industry. A product was registered this year that was available in the United States, and the user groups were just waiting. In fact, they were writing and visiting the PMRA. This is a Bayer product, I believe. But it took quite a while to get it here. It was as if Christmas had arrived when it finally arrived.

Yes, there are newer products available. Generally what happens is the groups go to their conferences or whatever in the U.S. They see these products available, and they're asking why we can't have them in Canada. They are the newer products. I'm not saying that.... There are old products on the market that are excellent, because their data packages are brought up to date and such. The technology is continually evolving, but due to the market size in Canada for these market segments, we aren't seeing these products coming into Canada. It's because of that reason—it's purely an economic issue, a market issue.

So if there are ways we can streamline the system, accept other countries' data, harmonize, etc., it would be for the benefit of everyone, because they are newer technologies and would be of benefit to the population and the environment.

• 1635

Mr. Julian Reed: I wonder if either one of you might comment on the understanding that when a product is applied, for example, when Comet is used in the bathtub, it goes down the drain and ends up in the environment. It ends up in a watercourse, etc. Do you have any comment about biodegradability? Do products simply dilute, or do they disappear? Are they consumed by the soil bacteria and so on?

The Chair: If possible, not in the form of a PhD dissertation.

Mr. Julian Reed: Yes or no would be good enough.

Mr. Peter McLeod: Part of the evaluation process for all products—pesticides—is that the product itself as well as the active ingredient is tested for biodegradability. We test its biodegradability in soil, in water, and also in the air. That is assessed, and if the product is unduly persistent in the environment, the PMRA does not recommend a registration for that product. But it is assessed in many different facets.

I could go on in great detail on the types of studies we do to assess that, but it is looked at very carefully.

Mr. Julian Reed: I think it's an important consideration of the committee. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Reed.

Mr. Jordan, Mr. Herron, Mr. Mancini, and then the chair.

Mr. Joe Jordan (Leeds—Grenville, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to pick up on my colleague's point, but first, I'm a little puzzled, Wendy, that in your submission you talk about the municipal issue. Is that being considered by somebody—to expand municipal powers beyond their properties? I don't understand why that's in there.

Ms. Wendy Rose: I put it in there because I know it has been raised as an issue about the need for municipalities to have that authority. I wanted to raise with the committee—because this is a very important body—the issue of giving municipalities that authority and the need to support the provincial and federal regulatory bodies that regulate the science.

Yes, it is a very hot topic. I've had four calls this week from varying provinces around the issue. So I brought it up because I know it is an issue, there are some groups that have an interest in it, and I would like to reinforce the need to maintain our science at the highest standards and the highest levels.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Currently, though, they can regulate on their own properties. That's the way it stands.

Ms. Wendy Rose: Municipalities currently can regulate on their own properties. Only the Province of Quebec has passed down regulatory authority, and there are approximately 28 communities, I believe, that have bylaws. We've actually been called in to help rewrite some of those bylaws, because quite often they don't see the damage for a few years.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Okay. I want to pick up on the point then about the economics of this. When I met with a group of fruit growers, they made the case—I certainly was in no position to dispute it, and I think you touched on it conceptually—that they're not permitted in some cases to use newer products because they haven't worked their way through the regulatory process yet. So they're still using older—and the connotation is potentially more harmful—products. But they're having to compete against products that are being imported from the States, where the farmers have access to those newer pesticides and whatnot, which is a bit of bind to put the farmer in.

Are there examples of that in your industry with household products? I only have five minutes, so I guess I'm just—

Ms. Wendy Rose: Yes. I'll let Shannon address those from a household standpoint. I can address the lawn and garden uses.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Just a yes or no.

Ms. Shannon Coombs: Yes.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Yes, there are. I'm familiar with the ant trap thing, and what I want to get at is whether the PMRA.... The issue of how high the bar is, is an important issue. But putting that aside for a minute, in terms of using another country's data, that doesn't necessarily mean you use the other country's standards, but you can certainly make use of research data or the data on the product.

Let's say I stay awake at night and I invent a better ant trap, and it has half of the active ingredient that this one does. So conceptually, there is less chemical. What is it going to cost me to get that registered in Canada? I'm operating out of my garage. How much of a suitcase full of cash am I going to need to get a better product to market?

• 1640

Ms. Shannon Coombs: Your first task would be all the research and development you have to do.

Mr. Joe Jordan: I did it all myself. I substituted maple syrup for sugar and it worked wonderfully.

Ms. Shannon Coombs: Well, 99% of an ant trap is a food grade activant, so it's either honey or sugar, and the active ingredient can be .003% to a maximum of 1%. In order to get that active ingredient registered in Canada you'd have to have it reviewed by the PMRA, and you'd have to pay approximately $180,000.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Which I don't have. Okay. I guess what I'm trying to say is in terms of the PMRA, high standards and associated cost recovery, in some cases, conceptually could be keeping my better product out of the hands of Canadians.

Ms. Shannon Coombs: Given the market size, yes.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Yes, okay. Now my final point is on re-evaluation, because that fits into this as well. You say the CMCS supports re-evaluation. But the fact of the matter is, you pay for re-evaluation, do you not?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: Yes, we do. It's included in our maintenance fees for PMRA and paid yearly.

Mr. Joe Jordan: In the last year, how many re-evaluations has the PMRA done?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: I have the ongoing figures here. I believe there are eight products they've been reviewing, and I'm not sure on the timelines. You'd have to ask the PMRA that.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Okay. But there are some 400 in the queue?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: That is the intent. It's to re-evaluate over 400 actives in six years, yes.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Okay, thanks.

The Chair: Mr. Herron, followed by Mr. Mancini, and then the chair.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for your presentations. My first question is that I believe professional lawn-care individuals have to be licensed in terms of the application of the pesticides they may actually use.

Ms. Wendy Rose: Yes, that's correct.

Mr. John Herron: I believe there would be a number of pesticides in the more, we'll say, lower-end applications, where those pesticides also could be purchased even in Canadian Tire or something like that.

Ms. Wendy Rose: The commercial applicators have to be licensed. They will be purchasing commercially registered products, although they may use domestically registered products. Consumers only purchase the domestic products. They are different from the commercial products, from what a farmer may use, what a professional may use.

Mr. John Herron: Well, where I'm going with this is that probably quite often a professional would use a domestically registered product that I could go and buy as well. That's a concern some municipalities have, that the professional may know the quantity, the application, and how to go about it, but an individual at their own home may say the more the better.

Ms. Wendy Rose: I would agree with you that we need to be doing more on consumer education of the products. We have done very well in terms of educating the professional users. But I think there is a lot we can be doing, all of us, on education of the consumer on the use of the products. That is what our retailer strategy is about.

Mr. John Herron: That is why a large number of municipalities, and even one in my own riding, Quispamsis, feel that to have that empowerment to be able to regulate, perhaps, the consumption of pesticides within their own boundaries.... That's one of the reasons they're looking at it.

They're also, believe it or not—you made a comment about the depth of knowledge. I know that my mayor in that particular town is quite educated in this particular field, and I'm sure alarm bells go off in her head, given that the last time the pesticides act was officially reviewed.... It's essentially 30 years old. So that's a concern from that regard.

• 1645

I have a large concern over the documentation that is available to Canadians with respect to the potential hazards of pesticides, regardless of category, with respect to human health and the environment.

It's my impression that—and I'd love to be corrected on this—under the WHMIS program, the workers' safety program of WHMIS, pesticides are exempt from having to have material safety data sheets produced. Now, sometimes that's done on a voluntary basis, but they are exempt right now. Is that true?

Ms. Wendy Rose: Yes.

Mr. John Herron: I'm having a little rough problem with the issue that pesticides, which are part of our society for industrial use or whatever, are actually a chemical that we've developed to kill, in a controlled way.

I come from the steel industry, and I know if I had to supply a piece of steel, I had to produce a material safety data sheet just for it to sit there on that table, because it might be welded and the fumes might be toxic. We know this substance on its own is toxic.

So do you think that for any regime that's developed in the new pesticides act, material safety data sheets should be developed for pesticides under that regime? Do you think that's one of the right things to get Canadians to have more confidence in pesticides?

Ms. Wendy Rose: I'll address that from two perspectives. One, on most of the labels for the domestic products, I would say for the great majority of them, there is a 1-800 help line so consumers can pick up the phone, call the companies if they have any inquiries regarding the products, concerns about environment, health, whatever. The companies welcome those phone calls. They have these 24-hour help lines should consumers have calls, and they track the calls.

With regard to the MSDSs, our industry, through the Crop Protection Institute, is just finalizing a compendium of MSDSs for the industry products. The companies are volunteering their MSDSs, they are being put on CD-ROM, and there's a 1,000-page book. This book will be available to all of our members, to retailers of the products, the companies involved in our organization. The domestic products as well will be participating. That compendium of MSDSs, for those who are desiring that information, will be available.

Mr. John Herron: My last question, with the grace of the chair, is that those MSDSs, I trust, are produced for the active ingredients. A large degree of the testimony we have heard is the concern over the entire formulation. Would those MSDSs that you'd be advocating be for the active ingredients and the formulation or just the active ingredients?

Ms. Wendy Rose: I'm sorry, I don't know the answer to that, whether it's just the actives or not.

I'll let you address that.

Mr. Peter McLeod: Thank you.

The exemption that the pest control products have for WHMIS is partly addressed by the product label. The warning symbols sometimes have a skull and crossbones. That's part of the movement to symbols. Also the disposal instructions, the first aid information, and the disposal information on the product label is supposed to be a surrogate that's easier to read for a consumer. When you read an MSDS sheet it's very technical and related to an industrial setting. So that is the rationale for why the PCP products are exempt from WHMIS.

As far as the material safety data sheets themselves, they are available for each product because the companies that produce these products, in the actual production of them and storage, are considered an industrial setting. Those are available for all pesticide products.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Herron.

Mr. Mancini, please.

Mr. Peter Mancini (Sydney—Victoria, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for your presentation.

My first question is to Ms. Rose. You've indicated to us that gardening, I think you said, is the single most popular hobby for people over the age of 35. You've made reference to your membership and your organization dealing with golf courses and what have you. I would guess there's been an increase in the last few years in the sales of the products by the people who form your organization, given those factors.

• 1650

Ms. Wendy Rose: Industry sales have gone up. They have somewhat levelled off on our sector's side for the last couple of years. There is very much support for the industry's products by homeowners; however, I believe they are used responsibly and used as required to fight pests and disease.

Mr. Peter Mancini: But it would be fair to say there's been an increase in usage over the last couple of years.

Ms. Wendy Rose: Yes, I would say so.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Has there been an increase in the use of pesticides on the ingredients in the products that are now being sold?

Ms. Wendy Rose: I'll let you talk about the new products coming out.

Mr. Peter McLeod: Could you repeat the question?

Mr. Peter Mancini: We know now that there's an increase in sales of the products that are being sold. If I carry my analogy a little further, I would assume that with an increase in sales and more people using the product, there's an increase in competition to do the job faster and quicker. Has there been an increase in the use of pesticides in the products of the people who make up your organization?

Mr. Peter McLeod: That's a difficult question for me to answer and I don't have statistics to back me up. I'll give you my opinion on that matter.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Yes, if you could. I think if you could provide that to the committee at a later date, that would be appreciated.

Mr. Peter McLeod: The sales dollars have gone up, but I imagine the kilogram total of the active ingredients applied in this area would have remained flat over that same amount of time. The newer products that are brought onto the market are usually more expensive and more active per dose than the older products. That would be my opinion on what's happening in that industry. I'm sure we can find statistics to back that up.

Ms. Wendy Rose: Yes, we could find that.

Mr. Peter Mancini: If you could find that for me, I'd appreciate it.

Among the members of your organizations, how much money is spent on researching biodegradable products that don't use pesticides? This goes to Mr. Reed's question. What percentage is it? Can you tell me that? Has the budget for use of non-pesticide, biodegradable products increased at the same rate as sales?

Ms. Wendy Rose: Our organization represents the full range of pest management products. We have companies that are involved in predatory insects. We have companies that are involved in the development of biological products. Traditional chemistry has been there and now our companies are moving into plant biotechnology.

I think it's really an issue of the products that work, in terms of fighting the problem that the products are designed for. There have been pluses and minuses with the other products in terms of the predatory insects, in terms of the biological products. We've seen chemistry, we know what it can do, and we know what the result will be.

I don't believe we've seen the same type of performance. Peter, would you like to talk about that?

Mr. Peter McLeod: Since we're dealing with household consumers, it's very market driven. The technology will be developed where there's a demand, and there's certainly been a demand for biological-type products. Industry has come up with products that fit that need.

As Wendy was indicating, the real action is fixing the problem. If the problem can be fixed with a biological aspect, some consumers will choose to use that and some will choose to use the traditional chemicals. Both types of products are on the market and available.

Mr. Peter Mancini: I have just two more questions, if the chair would indulge me.

On page 4 of your paper you indicate in the first paragraph, the last sentence, that “a pesticide registration may be cancelled at any time if adverse effects on humans or the environment are suspected”. Has that ever happened? Can you tell me if a pesticide registration has ever been cancelled?

Mr. Peter McLeod: I cannot answer for one being cancelled. I know of cases where products have been voluntarily withdrawn from the company because of the restrictions that have been put on the product by the PMRA. Sales would be so small that they wouldn't be useful, so in effect they have been taken off the market that way.

• 1655

Mr. Peter Mancini: I have one final question. Mr. McLeod, you might be able to answer this. It goes to the questions put by Mrs. Kraft Sloan regarding tests. Have tests been done on combinations of pesticides working together? Do you know what I mean? You may test for one particular ingredient and you may test for another. Is there testing done when both of those ingredients might be combined?

Mr. Peter McLeod: Are you referring to toxicological tests?

Mr. Peter Mancini: Yes.

Mr. Peter McLeod: That's now a requirement of the EPA in the United States. They're looking at multiple cumulative effects. To my knowledge, in Canada those tests have only been performed where the two ingredients are actually in one product you'd see on the shelf. Oftentimes there's a mixture of products that are in one particular container, and they are tested in that way.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Mancini.

There are a few questions from this end of the table, if I may. Ms. Rose, in your brief on page 3 you refer to dandelions. Could you explain to this committee why you think dandelions are pests? What's wrong with dandelions?

Ms. Wendy Rose: I get that question a number of times. I find that homeowners and consumers have varying degrees as to how they want their property to look. Some people like dandelions while others don't. I see that as one issue, where it's a weed and it will proliferate if it's not controlled. Some people choose to go out and dig them up by hand, and others prefer to have a lawn-care company or themselves treat the lawn. What is very important is to get a healthy lawn. What you will find with many of the lawn-care services is that once you've been on a program, the turf becomes healthy and there is less need to use the products. But it is getting it to that point, to eliminate the seeds and the problem of the weed, that quite often is what gets treated.

The Chair: It's a very comprehensive statement you've made, but you still haven't answered the question, why is the dandelion a pest? You've described it as a weed, and you've spoken about the health of the lawn. Why would you classify the dandelion as a pest?

Ms. Wendy Rose: I would classify it as a weed. I'm sorry, if I classify it as a pest—

The Chair: That's what you—

Ms. Wendy Rose: Weeds could be considered pests.

The Chair: —do on page 3 of your paper. You mix it with fungicides, if I remember correctly. You're really very unkind to the dandelion, it seems to me. Now you've shifted toward a more gentle direction so that you're describing it as a weed. But under the heading of why pesticides are used in urban environments, you talk about dandelions, so evidently you consider it a pest. Do I take it, then, that you don't consider dandelions to be a pest but just a weed? Is that correct?

Ms. Wendy Rose: I'm sorry, could you repeat the question?

The Chair: Do I take it from your answer, then, that botanically speaking you are now considering the dandelion a weed and not a pest?

Ms. Wendy Rose: Yes, I would consider it to be a weed that some people would consider to be a pest within their property. Weeds can proliferate if not controlled, and they can affect the health of the grass. But it is definitely a weed.

The Chair: Thank you.

Ms. Rose, you referred to PMRA conducting tests of your products. Does PMRA conduct the tests, or are the tests conducted elsewhere?

Ms. Wendy Rose: The testing is done by our company. The data are submitted to the PMRA for review.

The Chair: Do you see any conflict of interest there?

Ms. Wendy Rose: I believe the PMRA has very high standards in terms of the evaluation of the products. They have a very large responsibility in terms of regulating the products and giving the okay for the products to be used, and I believe they take it very seriously.

The Chair: Would you have any objection if in future the tests were not conducted by your company?

• 1700

Ms. Wendy Rose: I've never thought about that. I don't believe that would be an issue.

I'll let you speak to Peter here.

The Chair: What does Mr. McLeod think? Would you like to elaborate on that?

Mr. Peter McLeod: Just to back up one second, Mr. Chair, in industry as a whole I would say that roughly 75% of all tests are not completed by the company. They are contracted out to a private, independent research institute.

The Chair: Who is it chosen by?

Mr. Peter McLeod: It's chosen by and paid for by the company. The tests are done by GLP standards that are internationally recognized to be duplicated and—

The Chair: Who's in charge of paying the piper, so to speak?

Mr. Peter McLeod: The person who is—

The Chair: Is it the applicant?

Mr. Peter McLeod: The company or person having the product is paying to have the testing completed.

The Chair: I appreciate your answer.

Finally, Ms. Rose, as we understand from your submission today, when a pesticide product is brought to the market, there are active and inactive ingredients. Is the information on inactive ingredients made available to the public?

Ms. Wendy Rose: In terms of the inert ingredients, or the formulation, as you describe them, they are part of the evaluation process of the end product by the PMRA. Four or five years ago our organization, together with Health Canada, developed a backgrounder on formulations. It's in the package of information you received with regard to the process of evaluation. It states on the backgrounder that if a consumer wishes to get information on the inert ingredients, they can pick up the phone. Presently, they're not on the label. But if they do want that information, they should contact the company, and that information will be provided.

The Chair: So the onus is on the consumer and not on the company.

Ms. Wendy Rose: Presently, for those who want that information, it is available by calling the company.

The Chair: But the onus is on the consumer. Would you agree with that?

Ms. Wendy Rose: Yes.

The Chair: Thank you.

I have a final question for Ms. Coombs. You make some very interesting comments on pages 4 and 6. You say that your industry has great difficulty in understanding the way in which re-evaluation is being addressed by PMRA. You refer to PMRA as a closed shop and that you are being left in the dark as to what the agency is doing. You also indicate that if the PMRA continues with its current approach, the registration system is in serious danger of breaking down and that newer, safer products may be long delayed, which goes back to Mr. Reed's question, or else may never occur in Canada. These are very important statements you make. Could you briefly elaborate for us?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: When I referenced the PMRA as a closed shop, I was using the words of the Auditor General in the 1999 report.

The Chair: Yes.

Ms. Shannon Coombs: Our concern about re-evaluation is that it's one initiative the PMRA has decided to undertake as delivering its mandate. In the current funding structures of the PMRA there's a public and private good to that structure. We are suggesting that given the clouded history of the PMRA's re-evaluation activity—

The Chair: In reference to which history?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: The clouded history.

The Chair: What do you mean by “clouded”?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: In the pesticide registration review in 1990 one of the recommendations was that there would be a re-evaluation program and that it would hinge on the U.S. system. In 1994 the government response to that was that there would be a re-evaluation program and that there would be 10 a year for re-evaluation and special review. Then when the PMRA was created and cost recovery was initiated, they increased that program to 500 active ingredients over a period of.... The timeframes change depending on which document you review. Then the Nephin report came out and suggested that entire initiative needed to be re-examined, because industry was paying for a portion of that cost and the activities were not being undertaken.

• 1705

In 1999 the PMRA initiated another document, A New Approach to Re-evaluation. The number of actives had decreased to 400, and they said they would be doing that in six years. But this summer the PMRA announced that they are going to re-evaluate organophosphates, which is not consistent with their 1999 document.

So that's the history that's led us to being left in the dark, sir.

The Chair: That's very helpful. Can you offer your own explanation for these shifts in positions?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: The PMRA would be the best person to answer that, sir.

The Chair: You don't want to be decapitated tomorrow morning; is that what you're saying?

Voices: Oh, oh!

Ms. Shannon Coombs: No, it's simply an observation from dealing with them for five years. The PMRA would be the best person to explain that to you.

The Chair: We appreciate very much the content of the comments you have made and your bringing this to the attention of the committee, I can assure you of that.

All right. We are ready for a second round, in the same order as the first round, for members of the committee. Mr. Jaffer is first.

The chair apologizes for disappearing, but I have to speak in the House at 5:30 to present a private member's bill, and I cannot avoid or delay that. So I express my apologies to the witnesses for making a Houdini disappearance through the back door, but I will read the transcript of the balance of this meeting with great interest. I thank you very much for your participation.

The second round is Mr. Jaffer, Monsieur Cardin, Mr. Reed, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Mancini, and the new chair.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have only one question, and it's with regard to the issue of the harmonization of regulatory systems. In your brief you talk especially about some of the international standards and how we can try to harmonize our regulatory system to make it all work a lot more easily.

You also outlined—and I believe this was in the Urban Pest Management Council report—the different regulatory branches within the country: the municipal, the provincial, and the federal.

Obviously in the usage of some of your products, there are some different standards, because of the jurisdictional issues provincially, federally, and so on and so forth. What sort of overlap do you find dealing with those different jurisdictions and what sort of harmonization would you suggest the committee should be looking at in that process, in dealing with some of the burdens you have to deal with?

Ms. Wendy Rose: That process is under way currently. Both Shannon and I sit on the product reclassification working group, which is made up of the PMRA, the provincial regulators, and industry. We actually have meetings in two weeks in Ottawa, where we will be looking at harmonizing federal and provincial jurisdictions, again to determine the classification of the products and the usage of the products and to streamline the system so that these overlaps are taken away.

So that process is underway. It has been underway for two years, but we've been making great progress in the last six months.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: So there is a spirit of cooperation then, I would imagine.

Ms. Wendy Rose: Yes.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Okay, thank you. That's all I had.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Jaffer.


Mr. Cardin.

Mr. Serge Cardin: I have a few questions to ask you but first let me tell you a personal story.

On a nice and sunny Spring day, I was made, kind of against my will, to go play golf. One of my golf partners who was about to hit the ball and was smoking at the same time put his cigarette on the lawn to hit his ball. He took his cigarette back and we left.

Two or three minutes later, he started having a very hard time breathing. He swelled up and could not breathe anymore. He was taken to the hospital where he was saved in extremis. He almost died.

• 1710

My first question is a multiple choice one. What almost killed him: smoking, golf or the chemicals that had been sprayed on the lawn? If you tell me it's golf, I will stop playing golf. I don't play much anyway. If you tell me it is smoking, I will tell you that I am about to stop smoking. But if you tell me that it is because of chemicals, it raises an important question.

We are talking about deregulation, reduction of regulation or business self-regulation. The public perception of this deregulation or of your self-regulation can cause serious harm to your products. When that story happened, I was seriously concerned.

I have lovely dandelions growing freely at home even if you call them weeds. Yellow and green go very well together. It makes lovely salad and powerful wine. I have serious concerns. On the one hand, you're talking about the negative aspects of dandelions and are therefore creating needs in the consumer and, on the other hand, you want deregulation or self-regulation. Where do public interest and safety come into account?


Ms. Wendy Rose: I'll go back to your golf course example.

The golf course industry and the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association—and we were involved—have developed quite a comprehensive environmental manual for their superintendents across Canada, the people involved in the keeping of the courses. There are things the courses can be doing to ensure that exposure of golfers to these products is minimized. So you will tend to see the application of the products early in the morning or later in the evening, when people are off the courses.

I mention that because the industry sectors are aware of their responsibility and of the public's concern surrounding the use of the products, and we are doing things to ensure that concern in minimized.

So I would have to ask, with your particular golf course, why was there something there? That is definitely not the trend I'm seeing in golf course management right across Canada.

We have a job to do in consumer education. In terms of the retail products, we have to ensure that the public knows to read the label. That label is a legal document, approved by the PMRA, that clearly outlines when and how the product should be used and under what environmental conditions. We have more efforts to make in that area of the retail market.

We will always find that citizens, consumers, are all different in their expectations of their property. I see that even in Ontario, where Oakville has different expectations from the community of Whitby or Scarborough. So what is used in the community is very much a reflection of what that community wants. You may even find within communities there are sections different from other sections.

What is very important for all groups is that the products are used responsibly and that the label is followed. As I said, on the consumer side, we have a job to continually ensure the public is educated on the responsible use of the products.


Mr. Serge Cardin: Even if you did not answer my multiple choice question, I suppose that you agree with me.

You are talking about municipalities. I have been a city councillor. You said that the municipalities were not always equipped to make recommendations about pesticides or chemicals. There are two universities in Sherbrooke. There were chemists and biologists looking into that and who had made recommendations to the town. Of course, those recommendations were not accepted but there are nevertheless cities quite well equipped to evaluate some pesticides or chemicals. In fact, the Health Department had noticed an important increase in respiratory diseases.

• 1715

In that context, I am always a bit uncomfortable with the perspective of self-regulation or reduction of regulation for companies making chemicals. You must also have a concern.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Monsieur Cardin, could you wrap up your questions, please?


Mr. Serge Cardin: Yes. Your implication is important. If the municipalities were to regulate more and more, going to the House of Commons or Parliament would not be enough anymore. You would have to go and see a lot of municipalities. Should you not be stricter in your self-regulation so that one day municipalities won't adopt very harsh policies?


Ms. Wendy Rose: In terms of industry self-regulation, I would say that the pesticide industry is probably one of the most highly self-regulated industries there is. I know the institute is giving their presentation tomorrow about their various stewardship practices and what we have been doing.

We find it very important to self-regulate, to ensure responsible use of industry products. For those involved in the landscape trades and the golf course industry, I mentioned their environmental manual, which they have distributed across Canada. We are involved in this industry and we will continue to self-regulate. We feel it's very important for the stewardship of our products and the responsible use of them in the environment.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Mr. Reed.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I too eat dandelions in the spring, and I'm now looking desperately for a good recipe for the use of a large quantity of pigweed with which my garden is overrun. I only say that to illustrate the fact that when I went to agricultural college, the definition of a weed was any plant that was in a place you didn't want it.

I think Ms. Coombs has given us a very excellent insight into some of the frustration that the industry feels about PMRA and what it's doing. It appears to be changing its mind and not necessarily revealing itself in a way that it might, and I'm quite concerned about that.

I'm also concerned about Mr. Jordan's line of thinking. He asked how much it costs to take a chemical through this process and out the other end. It would seem to me that if the PMRA process continues to become more complicated, it also continues to become more costly.

What that means is that the little guy is eliminated before he starts. He's not even allowed to get out of the starting gate, and that's a great concern to me. All industries began small—even Bombardier started with one man in a garage—and I think it's important to try to keep that perspective as much as possible.

I would ask if you could comment on the process and the cost recovery aspect. In other words, who pays for it now and who should be paying for it? It seems to me that perhaps some of the cost that is borne now by producers, the chemicals, might be looked at in a different light inasmuch as it is the general public who are the potential beneficiaries of these products.

• 1720

Do you have any comment to make about the cost of doing business and who should pay?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: Thank you very much for your question. As I mentioned earlier in my comments, the PMRA is funded as a public good and a private good, and the private good is covered by user fees to industry. There are two types of those fees: submission fees, which pay for the review of actual data, and a maintenance fee, which is paid on a yearly basis as a right and privilege. Within that is where we cover the costs for some of the subsidy for the re-evaluation activities.

Our member companies depend upon two types of registrations. We have larger companies that make an active ingredient and would then use product submissions to the PMRA, which would actually develop the technology themselves, and then the smaller people you're referring to, who depend on the bigger companies to formulate end-use products that are sold for a variety of the products that I've brought here today. It's very difficult for some of these particular companies to bring products to market in Canada because of the market size. It's definitely a limitation.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Reed.

Mr. Jordan, and then Mr. Mancini.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm now in the “hearwig”-destroying business.

A voice: Hearwig?

Mr. Joe Jordan: When John Herron talked about the WHMIS process, one of the things about the workers' right to know, one of the things embedded in that philosophy—and I guess this is one of the reasons there's a retail exemption—is that workers are trained, in Ontario anyway. They receive x number of hours of training. There's a set of symbols. I don't want to get into whether there are any socio-economic factors contributing to the pests people have in their homes, but what if people can't read? You have quite a bit of information on this label, and it's good information, but if I can't read, then it's of no use to me. Is there any thought given to a similar type of symbol-based system, not only for directions, but for first aid treatment and things like that? I'm just wondering if you think that's a problem or a potential problem.

Ms. Wendy Rose: Actually, it ties into my recommendation 5 or 6—I'm not sure which one—about re-examining the consumer labels to look at how they can be easier to read, whether it's by the use of symbols, colour coding of products, or that kind of thing. I think this is an issue we need to think about. We have an aging society that loves to garden, and it's getting bigger and bigger. How can we make those labels more user-friendly? How can the consumer identify on the shelf right away the type of product they're purchasing? It would assist the in-store people as well in their education process.

So I think there are ways of addressing the fact that the domestic label needs to be re-evaluated, and we need to look at what can be done to ensure the responsible use of the product.

Mr. Joe Jordan: My colleague just sent me a note saying that men don't read instructions anyway. But apart from that, I would encourage you to continue that, because I think that's an important element of it.

Ms. Wendy Rose: Very much so.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Right.

Mr. Mancini.

Mr. Peter Mancini: I was going to say, Joe, if you want to produce your ant trap in Cape Breton, we could get you some start-up money through ECBC or something.

Mr. Joe Jordan: No, I'm not going there.

Mr. Peter Mancini: I have a couple of questions. In reading some of the material here, when I go through and read about what the experts say about 2,4D and Agent Orange, or whether there are links between pesticide exposure and male sperm count and Parkinsons disease, it seems to me that—obviously, you're not going to say there's a danger—it makes everything sound very safe. When I read the last one, “Has a link been established between pesticide exposure and breast cancer?”, it says: “No. There have been no definitive studies linking pesticide exposure with breast cancer”. You go on to say: “Several studies have provided inconclusive evidence of a weak association, while others have not found a link...”.

That doesn't sit well with me, and I have some concern about it. My question to you is, what are the standards that the industry would use? Would we employ here the precautionary principle in the interests of health and public safety?

• 1725

Ms. Wendy Rose: I believe we have very stringent standards that look at the risk of these products to human health and the environment. That document was not written by the industry; it was actually written by an independent toxicology firm, CanTox, based in Mississauga. Quite often for our materials...there's another one there about pesticides and pets that was prepared by the centre for toxicology at the University of Guelph. Those documents are really from the questions I get the most when I'm out there. I source out the expert toxicology opinion in these areas.

With regard to your question...I'm sorry, what was the last question?

Mr. Peter Mancini: It had to do with the precautionary principle. But before we get to that, I just want to make sure I'm clear on this. You're telling me that this backgrounder information was not written by your organization—

Ms. Wendy Rose: No, it wasn't.

Mr. Peter Mancini: —but it has your logo on it?

Ms. Wendy Rose: Yes. We retain outside expertise—outside firms, toxicologists—to write many of our materials. It could be a university. It could be health organizations. That one was prepared by—the name is actually on the back of the document—CanTox Inc. They are based in Mississauga and are an international firm used by government as well as industry.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Okay. I would assume that this speaks for your organization, and because of that, I point that out to you—as a lawyer.

What I was saying is that when there is inconclusive evidence, would it not be better to perhaps withdraw the product or use some other kind of principle in terms of taking precautions for human health and safety?

Ms. Wendy Rose: We support, as an industry, taking caution for human health. We believe the PMRA has a very thorough system; it is recognized around the world as one of the most stringent regulatory systems for a regulatory regime. I believe that caution is used in the evaluation of the products, and that process is already in place.

Mr. Peter Mancini: I have one other question, if I may, Madam Chair. This would be to Ms. Coombs. It has to do with your paper. It was touched on a little bit by the chair, Mr. Caccia, before he left.

On two occasions in your paper, at page 3 and again at page 6, you talk about the inappropriate management of resources by PMRA. At page 3, the second paragraph from the bottom, you say:

    CMCS appreciates that the PMRA has made efforts to adopt these recommendations. We also understand that they are severely limited in doing so by inappropriate management resources....

You say again at page 6, I think it is, the third paragraph from the top:

    In our estimation, if the PMRA continues with its current approach to managing issues the registration system is in serious danger of breaking down.

What management inefficiencies are you referring to? That's how I read this. Am I wrong there? You're being fairly critical of the PMRA in terms of how it's managing its own resources. Can you elaborate on that?

Ms. Shannon Coombs: May I provide a brief background to the information?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Yes.

Ms. Shannon Coombs: When the agency came together in 1995, they developed cost-recovery user fees for the industry in 1997, and there has been a long and complicated history of industry dealing with the PMRA in, for example, the re-evaluation initiative of trying to get a handle on where the money is actually being spent in the PMRA. When I make these statements here, our industry is very concerned that the PMRA be able to deliver its mandate but also ensure that the registration system is efficient and timely. That's what I was specifically referring to.

Mr. Peter Mancini: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Mancini.

Madam Torsney, Mr. Cardin, does anyone else have any other questions?

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): I think you have another one.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I wanted to refer to page 4 in the Urban Pest Management Council of Canada brief. This is a question that was asked earlier. In the final sentence of the first paragraph on page 4 you say that “a pesticide registration may be cancelled at any time if adverse effects on humans or the environment are suspected”. The response from Mr. McLeod was that you knew of none other than voluntary ones.

• 1730

I'm wondering if Ms. Rose or Ms. Coombs know of any pesticide registration being cancelled.

Ms. Shannon Coombs: I think that question should be directed to the PMRA. I certainly haven't been involved in this industry long enough to know of any.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I'm just asking; I'm just curious to know if you knew of any.

Ms. Shannon Coombs: I don't personally know of any, but I think you should ask the PMRA that question.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Oh, I'm sure we will.

Ms. Rose, did you know of any?

Ms. Wendy Rose: My response would be the same as Peter's. I'm aware of a product that was withdrawn, but that was by the company as opposed to the product being cancelled. I'm not aware of any that have been cancelled. The PMRA could address that.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

I wanted to talk about the issue with regard to municipalities. I live in a small village, but I live in a subdivision, and the lawns are continually covered with little signs that say don't walk on them, pesticides in use. It's impossible to walk down my street or the set of streets where I live at any time of the week without signs being on most of the lawns.

On one side of me I have someone who has been using a lawn care company for a while. On the other side of me I have an organic gardener and he has quite a large lot, so I might as well call him a farmer. Unfortunately the land slopes from the south to the north, so everything runs off. I'm in the middle and we don't put anything on our lawn. We don't have any dandelions but I do have cats, a six-month-old golden retriever puppy, and nieces and nephews who come over to play once in a while.

I also note in your background folder on pesticides and health that you say that in terms of exposure, there's no detectable amount that enters the body if contact occurs a few hours after spraying. You have to appreciate that in any community across our country, it's very likely that the situation is replicated, as indeed it is in my community, where there is constant spraying in the neighbourhood. I would suggest that for neighbourhood children, it would be impossible for them to stay off grass that had recently been sprayed.

Also, there was a suggestion that once you get your lawn under control, there's less need of chemical lawn-care companies. However, I don't see any decrease in incidence because people sign contracts and they have regular spraying. In fact, lawns were sprayed one day when I was going for a walk in the morning. It was snowing, so I found it rather unusual that they were spraying for weeds and things like that when snow was on the ground.

I'm a little concerned to see such a proliferation of the practice of chemicals being sprayed for cosmetic purposes on lawns. It is very ubiquitous. It's impossible to keep small children and pets.... I can't stop my dog or my cat from running on someone else's lawn if it's been recently sprayed. I do keep my dog on a lead, but it's still pretty hard when a puppy gets loose.

Then you're also infringing on the rights of my organic gardener friend who wants to keep his lawn and garden as free from chemicals as possible. He and his wife enjoy gardening.

Yet you have expressed a concern that communities enter into the regulation of pesticides. Well, I think that if communities choose—and there is certainly the will within that community and the leadership to choose to be strict or to ban the use of cosmetic chemicals for lawn care—then they should have that right.

I'm wondering how any of you might comment on some of the things I've said.

• 1735

Ms. Wendy Rose: I can certainly comment on it. As a mother with two children and two dogs, it's something I have to be concerned about as well in terms of the usage of the products. I probably have more knowledge about this area, so I do take some approaches to ensure that certain things do not happen right after application.

I know the lawn-care organization that looks after our lawn, as well as many within the various landscape trades, provides information on what to do and what not to do following the use of the products.

In terms of the application that you may have seen, it could have been a fertilizer application a few weeks before as opposed to a pesticide application. Many of the companies provide fertilizer services as well as pesticide services. In terms of the drift of the products, the exposure, that is part and parcel of all of the evaluation that PMRA does for these products.

As I mentioned earlier, we're very fortunate to have in our own back yard at the University of Guelph a number of experts in this area. They also have the Turfgrass Institute, which does numerous studies in the area of drift, exposure, and that kind of thing, and they are used by government as a resource.

With regard to those areas of concern, I can appreciate your concern. I feel comfortable in knowing what the testing is by the federal body in these areas. If there were drift, we would be seeing it in terms of what is going on in the other properties. That is part of the testing requirement. How do the products move in the soil?

I feel very comfortable with the technology and in terms of the testing that is done at the PMRA with regard to these concerns.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Do any of the other witnesses have anything to say?

Part of the concern I have is when I see all these conditions for youth. I see these signs that say don't walk on the lawn. Well, you can't tell a two-year-old not to cut across the lawn or a four-year-old not to get a ball that rolled on the lawn or not to pick up and eat a piece of dirt off a lawn that was recently sprayed.

We talk about risk and we talk about management of risk and we talk about cost and we talk about benefit. In the area of cosmetic lawn usage, I'm not so sure what the benefit is for the people who have to endure some of the risk. Obviously there must be some level of hazard attached to the product if there are all these conditions listed.

In fact, as parliamentarians we received a bag of products that had been produced by the chemical producers of this country. A lot of them are household products that we all use. Along with the bag there was a sheet that came from the House of Commons that identified the fact that some of these products will cause allergies. I apologize; I don't have the letter. I will bring the letter in for the benefit of the committee. There were pesticide products and they wanted to let us know that these were hazardous products and we had to bring them to a special place to be disposed of. So it seems to me that there are a lot of conditions that have to be applied in the use.

When I look to my neighbour to the north, I see a lawn with a few bushes. When I look to my neighbour to the south, I see this incredible panoply of plants and colours and flowers and this huge garden. Obviously my organic gardener has absolutely no problem growing an incredibly lush garden of vegetables and fruits and growing the most beautiful flowers. The part of the yard that is flower garden is like an English garden, and you know how rich and varied those English gardens can be and how diverse they are.

• 1740

We don't necessarily have to use chemicals. I'll tell you, if I were looking at the property value, knowing that this individual hadn't used any chemicals on his lawn and seeing the quality of the landscape, I would much prefer to purchase that house than the house north of me.

I also have a friend who has 20-odd acres in the country, and she's proud to say that there hasn't been a chemical anywhere on her land for 24 years. They have maintained that entire property without any difficulty at all.

You suggest on page 6 that “statistics show that a well-managed lawn and landscape can boost property values by as much as 15%” is an argument to use pesticides. I would say there are other things that go into that as well and there are other options that exist.

I think I've said enough today. Those are some of my own personal comments. If anyone else wants to jump in, feel free.

Mr. Mancini.

Mr. Peter Mancini: I had a thought in terms of municipal regulations. I appreciate everything you've said, but my concern is that some municipalities might be more lax than provincial or federal governments.

I'll leave it at that. It's worthy of some discussion between the chair and myself at some point.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Yes.

Thank you. The meeting is adjourned.