I don't have a problem with giving an extension to Bill , but the testimony we heard at our last meeting from the department—Daniel Blasioli said what is being proposed would actually weaken CEPA—really concerned me.
What's being proposed by a Bloc member, Mr. André—and thank you for being here--and what the government did by notice of intent in February are pretty similar, but they have different results. In doing it by regulation as opposed to by a private member's bill, you use CEPA and amend what's already in CEPA to 0.5%. Its effective coming into force date will be July 2010.
So the bills are similar. The Bloc wants it to come into force approximately a year earlier, and we can hear from witnesses what the ramifications of that will be. But I want to remind the committee that what's being proposed will actually weaken CEPA. We don't want to weaken any environmental legislation; we want to strengthen things when we can. We just did a total CEPA review about a year ago.
I'm a little concerned, and I would ask if Mr. Bigras would be willing to remove Bill C-469.
First of all, I want to say that I was notified rather late. As a result, I didn't have the time to do an in-depth analysis of the bill. However, I do want to talk a little about how we are dealing with the phosphate problem in our area.
To begin with, I want to point out that our regional council held a regional forum in April on the impact of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, in the Montérégie area. There is no doubt that discussions did not focus solely on the impact of detergents. Other important consequences for waterways and the groundwater in Montérégie were also discussed at that time.
Regulations dealing with the use of detergents would clearly be important and have an effect on the phosphorus problem in Canadian lakes. On the other hand, we believe regulations will resolve only part of the water contamination problem. The following is an overview of our discussions in relation to the different themes.
Let us begin by talking about agriculture. A number of participants emphasized the need for responsible agricultural practices, including protection of buffer strips and more environmentally friendly agricultural methods. Examples such as the La Guerre River project, organic growing and the addition of mycorrhiza foster more responsible agriculture and encourage a reduction in what is now extensive use of fertilizers, as well as a reduced need for watering—thereby decreasing water contamination caused by phosphorus, phosphates and other residues. Indeed, a resolution presented at the forum suggested that financial support be provided by governments—and I include both levels of government—with a view to fostering responsible agriculture and this type of growing practice and vision.
The next theme had to do with residences located on the shores of waterways or in isolated areas adjacent to a sewer system. The deterioration of some lakes and waterways has been caused by the poor use and poor protection of shoreline areas by residents, such as excessive cutting of vegetation or the use of fertilizers or pesticides in order to have a more even lawn. As we see it, the solution to that problem lies more in awareness raising and education regarding the environment. Unfortunately, monies available from the government—federal or provincial—for actions in this area are, in our view, inadequate or rarely available.
There is also the matter of the wastewater systems used at isolated residences. On the J.E. program that aired on the TVA network—I believe people here are familiar with it—we spoke out against the practice of discharging wastewater directly into the St. Lawrence River, into drainage ditches and waterways. That unacceptable practice is prevalent across the country. Rivers, lakes and ditches are thereby overexposed to contaminants of every imaginable kind, including nitrates, fecal coliforms and other pathogenic bacteria.
According to figures from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Environment and Parks (MDDEP), in Quebec alone, there are more than 850,000 septic systems being used by some 1.4 million people. Given that every individual discharges at least 250 litres of wastewater every day, more than 120 billion litres of wastewater are being released annually into the environment. We know that at least 60 per cent of these systems cause pollution because they are obsolete and no longer meet standards. Why is there no subsidy program in place? At the same time, infrastructure programs have helped urban residents, through subsidies of tens of billions of dollars, to build large sewer systems and filtering plants. Are there two classes of Canadians in this country?
In our opinion, the solution must come from both levels of government. Subsidies currently are available for the construction of wastewater treatment plants in municipalities that make the request. However, no subsidy currently exists for the construction of certified septic systems for isolated residences or sewer system in areas located too far away from urban facilities that no one can possibly afford to build.
Small municipalities and regions should be able to benefit from the Infrastructure Canada Program, which should include bringing such facilities up to standard. The operating and maintenance costs of these facilities could be paid through tax accounts, as is currently the case for subsidized systems. The impact of such a subsidy or regulation would be to encourage people to comply with current regulations, thereby allowing less advantaged or regional communities to have septic systems that meet health and environmental concerns. We don't want any more Walkertons.
We also believe that sewage treatment regulations and standards set by provincial ministries of the Environment across the country should be standardized.
However, it is important not to forget the groundwater. A study by Robert de Tilly of the MDDEP revealed the increasing possibility, as a result of climate change, that our waterways, including the St. Lawrence River, will evaporate over the next 25 years on an irregular basis, depending on the temperature. Indeed, that phenomenon has already been observed in the St. Lawrence River. You may want to refer to certain studies carried out by the Comité ZIP Ville-Marie in that regard. That has consequences for the water table. The capillary fringe, which is the area immediately above the water table, dries out because it follows the level of the groundwater. Over the years, significant cracks could open up in clay soil, possibly causing large fissures or crevices in houses located in the Montreal and South Shore areas. That could give rise to uncontrolled migration of contaminants of all kinds through the groundwater and into our waterways.
Let us look now at chemicals and detergents. All consumer products, such as detergents, cleaning products and soaps, should be subject to regular monitoring. These products should be required to comply with standards from the time of their development, based on the precautionary principle. Chemical substances already in use or their replacements should be required to have demonstrated their efficiency in relation to their potential impact on the environment. An unproven replacement product could create new problems in a not-so-distant future. As a result, it is essential to ensure that all new products are also environmentally friendly.
In closing, we believe that regulations dealing with detergents can be effective and positive, but without proper support from policies adopted in other areas, such as public health and the environment, they will not be enough. These regulations are intended to reduce the use of phosphorus, but in our opinion, they are not based on a comprehensive vision of the problem, which we see as key. Sustainable and integrated management have to occur at a broader level and consider all the factors that could potentially affect our environment and our waterways.
I will stop there and wait for your questions.
I'm dealing with a cold, so I apologize in advance if I start coughing.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, it's a pleasure to appear before the committee today. Unfortunately, as the chair has pointed out, Shannon Coombs, president of the CCSPA, was unable to attend at the last minute. I will try to answer any questions you may have to the best of my ability. I am Chera Jelley, and I'm the director of policy for CCSPA.
The Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association is a national trade association, which represents 46 member companies across Canada. Collectively it is a $20 billion industry, directly employing 12,000 people in over 100 facilities. Our companies manufacture, process, package, and distribute consumer, industrial, and institutional specialty products such as soaps and detergents, pest control products, hard surface disinfectants, deodorizers, and automotive chemicals.
On September 26, 2007, CCSPA announced an industry-led initiative to limit the phosphorous content of household automatic dishwasher detergent manufactured for sale in Canada, to a maximum of 0.5% by weight, effective July 2010. Regulatory and legislative changes with these same goals are currently under way in several U.S. states and in the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec. It is critical to have the same regulatory requirements in both Canada and the U.S., to ensure an integrated and harmonized North American market. This will allow our industry to remain competitive on the global market.
On February 15, 2008, the Government of Canada announced its intention to regulate the phosphorous content in laundry detergent and dishwasher detergents to a maximum of 0.5% effective 2010. The notice of intent was published the following day in the Canada Gazette, Part I. CCSPA supports the intent of the notice of intent and will be participating in the consultation process, both on the NOI and the anticipated regulatory amendments to the phosphorous concentration regulations under CEPA.
CCSPA recommends to the committee that not proceed as it conflicts with existing federal regulation, the federal notice of intent to create new federal regulations, the draft legislation in Manitoba, and the draft regulations in Quebec.
There are a few reasons why Bill C-469 should not proceed. As stated in CEPA, it is recommended that separate regulations be established in order to deal with the concentration levels of a prescribed new trend in products such as laundry detergents and dishwasher detergents. The intent of CEPA was not to prescribe concentration limits within the act itself; it was done to keep the legislation concise and with the knowledge that it is more efficient to create or amend regulations rather than amend existing legislation.
As the senior counsel for the Department of Justice pointed out at the committee last week, CEPA is a framework that enables the creation of regulations. He said that the regulations are the best place to make these changes. If it is done via legislation, which is the intent of , it ties the hands of a flexible regime, i.e., CEPA. Changing the act itself actually weakens the regime; it doesn't make it stronger.
It is important to note that reducing the amount of phosphorous in automatic dishwasher detergents and laundry detergent will not solve the blue-green algae problem, as the largest contributors are human sewage waste and agriculture runoff. Laundry detergents and automatic dishwasher detergents account for approximately 1%.
Unless the two significant contributors are addressed, blue-green algae will continue to be a problem. An example would be Italy, which is one of three European countries to have a specific household automatic dishwasher detergent limit. Italy reduced the phosphorous content in household automatic dishwasher detergent to 6% over an eight-year staged process. While the eutrophication has been reduced, it is widely believed that it was a combination of substantial investment in upgrading waste water treatment facilities and consecutive years of dry summers.
In conclusion, regulatory authority already exists under CEPA to create regulations that limit the phosphorous content in products such as dishwasher detergent and laundry detergents. Providing limitations and regulations rather than legislation allows flexibility for future changes and/or additions. Making changes to legislation is often more challenging.
The federal government has already indicated their desire to regulate the phosphorous content in these products through a notice of intent. This will allow the government to amend the existing federal regulations and will ensure consistency with proposed regulations in Quebec, draft regulations in Manitoba, and current regulations that already exist in several U.S. states.
In our opinion, amending legislation may provide a cumbersome challenge for future governments to modify phosphorus levels for the targeted product categories in this discussion. Therefore, CCSPA recommends one of two options. The first is that the bill not proceed; instead, a motion should be passed requesting that the federal government proceed with a federal regulation under the phosphorus concentration regulation. The second is that the bill be amended to instruct the to create federal regulations under the phosphorus concentration regulations.
This will ensure that regulations are created, rather than amendments to CEPA.
As the officials from the Department of Justice have pointed out, amending the act, which Bill proposes, will actually weaken CEPA, not make it stronger. While we support the intent of the bill, we think it is better to amend the existing federal regulations.
Thank you for allowing me to participate today, and I welcome any questions.
I was asked to talk about Bill C-469. I was not asked to discuss agriculture or other sources of phosphorus. I believe the discussion has gone well beyond the subject. I intend to focus on the subject of today's meeting.
I have read Bill C-469; it strikes me as very naive. On has the sense that it was written by a kid in grade school. First of all, there is a very serious spelling error: in the French the text reads “interdiction de phosphore” in the singular; it should be “interdiction du phosphore”. The word “phosphores” cannot be plural; therefore, it must be “du phosphore”.
In the text I have in front of me, there is no mention of a specific limit or cap. However, it is very important to specify the maximum concentration. The majority of U.S. states or Canadian provinces that have recently passed similar bills have set a level of 0.5 per cent. That should be stated.
I am also wondering why the people who drafted this bill did not take inspiration from other bills that were recently passed in some U.S. states, such as the State of Washington, and four or five others. Indeed, this is a North American problem.
I would also like to correct an error made by the previous speaker. Of course, when you consider all the phosphorus imported from the large rivers of Canada, phosphorus in automatic dishwasher detergents only contributes approximately 1 per cent of that total. However, when you consider phosphorus of human origin imported into recreational lakes, including phosphorus from septic systems, that percentage rises to 10 per cent. I agree that removing phosphorus from dishwasher detergents will not resolve the problem posed by cyanobacteria, which has been evident for a number of years now. However, it is one way of reducing phosphorus from human sources. And, it is a way of reducing by about 10 per cent, at no cost whatsoever, the concentration of phosphorus from human sources in recreational lakes.
That is pretty well all I wanted to say. It is important to specify in the bill the maximum concentration that will be allowed—say, no more than 0.5 per cent.
I also believe that institutions like hospitals, where human health depends on the use of clean surgical and other instruments, should not be subject to this legislation. It should specifically target automatic dishwater detergents or domestic products, as opposed to those used in institutions such as hospitals.
I really cannot add much more. In terms of the differences between a bill or amending a regulation such as the one in place under CEPA, I have no idea what the advantages or disadvantages might be. While I am not familiar with the legal repercussions, I have noted that bills have been tabled in the U.S. states, even though they most certainly have environmental protection regulations. Most U.S. states have opted for legislation. However, you are the ones with the expertise to determine whether it would be better to amend an existing regulation or introduce a bill. I cannot comment on that.
That completes my opening remarks.
I will read my statement.
The Comité du bassin versant de la rivière Gatineau, or COMGA, is a regional issue table that brings together a variety of players with an interest in the watershed. Its main mandate is to execute the Water Management Master Plan, or PDE, and its mission is to ensure proper protection of the quality of our water resources.
Following increased detection of algal blooms caused by external phosphorus imported into the lakes of the Gatineau River watershed and Quebec in general, the COMGA introduced an on-line petition on August 16th, 2007, calling for a ban on the use of phosphates in laundry and dishwashing detergents.
When the petition was completed, some two months later, 7,843 people from across the province had signed it and were in support of a complete ban on phosphates in soaps. That petition was immediately presented to the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and the Green Party.
The involvement of the Bloc Québécois, through its environmental critic, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, Mr. Bernard Bigras, resulted in the tabling of Bill , an Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, with a view to banning the manufacture, sale or importation of laundry or dishwasher detergents containing phosphates.
Phosphates are still allowed in Canada in concentrations as high as 2.2 per cent by weight, in laundry soaps. As for automatic dishwashing soaps, the proportion of phosphates can be much higher. Some have as much as 8.7 per cent by weight, which reflects the maximum concentration allowed under the laws of certain U.S. states.
The COMGA supports any legislation intended to reduce phosphorus imports into our waterways, as they are one of the main causes of algal blooms from cyanobacteria. That is why we support a ban on the use of phosphates in soap. However, it is important to remain vigilant as regards the formulation of alternatives to phosphates. The addition of phosphates to soaps makes them better at cleaning, because they soften the water and release the dirt in suspension, making oil and grease soluble. Without the softeners, these soaps do not work well in hard water. Hard water is water with a calcium concentration of between 80 and 120 parts per million, which is the case in many municipalities across Quebec.
In the late 1980s, a number of European countries and some U.S. states eliminated phosphates from soaps with a view to avoiding eutrophication of waterways and the formation of mucilage in sea water. The softening action was achieved through the use of other sequestering agents, such as EDTA, NTA, zeolite and sodium citrate.
The COMGA believes it is extremely important that the use of sequestering agents intended to be an alternative to phosphates in the manufacture of soap also be legislated based on their environmental impact. For example, EDTA has sometimes been shown to be extremely toxic. It forms highly stable complexes with metals and can keep in suspension such heavy metals as mercury, cadmium or lead, which are deposited and remain inert on the bottom of waterways. EDTA may also react with iron in hemoglobin, turning it into a poison. Another sequestering agent, NTA, is suspected of causing mutations in humans.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to present the views of the COMGA on this subject.
Yes. As I stated in our presentation, we would recommend that this be a regulation rather than amending CEPA. If the bill proceeds as is and amends the act, then it will conflict with existing federal regulations. That is a major concern for us.
CCSPA has announced an industry-led initiative that would limit the phosphorus content in household automatic dishwasher detergent to a maximum of 0.5%, so we would support the committee in amending the bill if that is the desire of the committee. As well, we have asked for an implementation date of July 2010. Again, that is in line with the U.S.
The problem with the date of 2009 is that our member companies are still developing new formulations. If it proceeds in 2009, there is no guarantee that our members will be able to have products available for 2009. Our member companies represent 86% of the market in Canada. If we don't have a product for sale for 2009, that means there'll be a huge shortage of the product and it would probably increase the cost of the alternatives.
As well, in our industry-led initiative we support an exemption for commercial and institutional facilities. In these facilities, such as hospitals, universities, schools, restaurants, and hotels, their machines are completely different from a household machine. Their wash and clean cycle is one minute, compared to 30 minutes in a household machine. It's a completely different machine, so you would need a complete exemption for that sort of facility. In the U.S., they have a maximum of 8.7% for those sorts of institutions.
Good afternoon, Ms. Jelley, Mr. Vecco, Mr. Marois et Mr. Carignan.
I would like to begin with you, Mr. Carignan.
I would like to address another aspect of the problem. I believe we have covered the issue as regards dishwashing products. In that respect, I want to start by thanking you, Mr. Carignan, for the very complete answers you have provided. They will greatly contribute to our work here in committee.
A number of bills are currently under consideration. One of our colleagues referred earlier to the one sponsored by Mr. Scarpaleggia, the member for Montreal—West. We are also studying the proposals made by Mr. Bigras. On our side, we have proposed measures aimed at compensating farmers and acting on some of the factors which contribute to the production of blue-green algae. We are proposing a 10-meter buffer strip. Compensation would vary based on the type of crop that would, in a way, have to be sacrificed. Based on my own observations, farm producers are not against the idea of relinquishing part of their land, but they do not want to suffer economic losses.
Mr. Carignan, am I correctly interpreting your opening comment in saying that, in your view, any attempt to control the blue-green algae problem must include an agricultural component?
Mr. Mulcair, before I answer your question, I want to go back to what Mr. Vecco and Mr. Carignan said earlier about replacement products. There are three of us here telling you that the issue is not time. I fully agree with Mr. Carignan: in that respect, we have to do things properly, as opposed to acting too quickly. As far as we are concerned, replacement products are an extremely critical issue.
As regards agriculture, the Council held a forum on cyanobacteria. We looked at the issue overall, as opposed to focusing solely on cyanobacteria. I agree with Mr. Carignan that the blue-green algae problem is having a lot of impact because the media have decided to run with it. But, to be perfectly honest, we intend to use it ourselves to raise awareness of the need for environmental protection.
Having said that, at the Forum, we determined that water is a public good. Based on that observation, a resolution was drafted and passed for the specific purpose of encouraging agricultural practices such as the 10-meter buffer strip and all the sustainable technologies related to agriculture. It is clear to us that agriculture is one of the major problems, but at the same time, people need help. As we see it, if water is a public good, then there is a need to support people working in the farming industry. This is the kind of problem that could be resolved by supporting the buffer strip project and new and attractive technologies. That is why I referred to the La Guerre River project and organic growing.
It was very positive. I heard what Mr. Carignan said, and I will be perfectly frank. I made this point in all sincerity when I arrived—namely, that I was given very little notice. I had to get myself organized in no time flat.
As far as I am concerned, when we talk about integrated management, we are talking about tackling the problem as a whole. In that regard, my views are not perfectly in sync with those of Mr. Carignan. We cannot avoid part of the problem. But, we cannot solve only one aspect of the problem. At least, that is our perspective on this.
The forum on cyanobacteria that we organized in our area did not only deal with one issue; we talked about all the issues. Because I work on a collaborative basis, I just can't see it any other way. That is why my presentation today reflected that approach.
Having said that, we do work with the UPA. Collaboration is not always easy to accomplish. Of course, people may be for or against certain things, but the President of the UPA in Saint-Hyacinthe and the Vice-President of the UPA in Saint-Jean-de-Valleyfield are members of our board of directors. There has been progress.
Indeed, I would just like to give you an example of some great cooperation. The Missisquoi Bay area has been working to clean up the Missisquoi Bay watershed, where there was a problem with cyanobacteria some ten years ago. When Mr. Carignan says this is not a new issue, he is perfectly correct. What is different is that, nowadays, people take an interest in it, whereas previously, they simply forgot about it. There has been dialogue and collaboration in the community. At the beginning, people were simply pointing fingers. Everyone was to blame. However, through dialogue, we were able to find solutions. In that specific case, the problem was clearly agriculture-related, because agricultural practices were not sustainable. People changed their behaviour, though, and that has clearly yielded very good results.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here, and also to Dr. Carignan for being here.
Ms. Jelley, I would like to ask you some questions about the date of the act coming into force. As you are aware, the government introduced a notice of intent to regulate back in February, and for the benefit of you witnesses, I just want to read what requires.
It says in proposed subsections 117.1(2) and 117.1(3), respectively, that:
|| Paragraphs (1)(a) and (b) come into force 180 days after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.
|| Paragraph (1)(c) comes into force 360 days after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.
So if were to receive royal assent this fall, what would it mean to the industry if we had this in effect six months after receiving royal assent? What would it mean to consumers to have that product available?
I think there is consensus that there is a problem, and I think we're also hearing from the witnesses that July 2010 is the better approach.
I'd like to go back to Madame Jelley, regarding moving forward by regulation or by legislation. We heard from the Department of Justice's senior counsel on Wednesday of last week. He said the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, CEPA, 1999, is the framework. By fixing either a prohibition or a limit in the act itself, you've tied the hands of what's intended to be a flexible regime. You've compromised its ability to evolve with changes and scientific information or other developments.
He went on to say:
||I would say that a change to the act itself to crystallize these requirements in itself weakens the regime. It doesn't make it stronger.
I think you commented on the importance of having it done properly so that it strengthens, not weakens. You said that what's being proposed in Bill C-469 would actually weaken it. Could you comment on that?
Also, Dr. Carignan, could you comment on the importance of strengthening?
The other issue has to do with the scale of proliferation. Proliferation is different in a hospital as opposed to a restaurant setting, and we do have to ensure that the proper controls are in place. There is a greater problem with pathogens in a hotel or a hospital than there is in a private residence. Mr. Carignan pointed out earlier that it is essential to ensure that pathogens are destroyed in the hospital setting.
I agree with Mr. Carignan. It is very likely that in both hotels and the restaurant industry in general, the systems used ensure that, because the water is so hot, pathogens are destroyed. The problem, when it comes to the hotel industry and restaurants, is that there is economic competition, and you need to ensure that the machinery is working properly. In a hospital setting, they cannot afford to ignore that. Therefore, we have the assurance that there will be proper control.
As regards the commercial sector, I am more cautious. I am not saying that people exercise less caution, but nor am I saying that there is the proper framework in place to ensure that this kind of caution is exercised.