Thank you again, Madam Chair. It's a pleasure to be here.
Our country is so vast and huge that it took me a whole day to get here yesterday, and that's why it's a pleasure to be here. I have the environment portfolio for the Assembly of First Nations; it's a national portfolio. We're actually in Ottawa meeting on these issues, so this is really timely for us. There's a first ministers' meeting that will take place early next month and we'll participate in that, so all of these issues are timely.
As I said, I'll follow my notes. We're here today to share some of our concerns related to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, as well as the consultation engagement process more generally. First nations are currently facing a number of serious environmental challenges, including the growing impacts of a changing climate and resource development, which are significantly impacting our relationship with the land, resulting in the diminished health and well-being of our people and our traditional ways of life.
Now, 10 years removed from the first review of the CEPA in 2005, unfortunately, first nations continue to face very similar, if not more severe, challenges relating to adequate consultation, financial support, technical capacity, and self-governance, all of which provide necessary tools to address environmental issues. We are encouraged by this invitation, but we would like to draw your attention to our 2005 submission on the proposed changes. Really, much of what was written then is still applicable today.
The AFN is committed to advancing the collective interests of first nations relating to protection and conservation of the environment, both nationally and internationally. These efforts must begin with the full and meaningful inclusion of first nations rights holders at both the community and regional levels. This will help position first nations as leaders and drivers of change on environmental protection and conservation.
We recognize and continue to articulate that this awareness of indigenous peoples is a first step in addressing environmental protection. Our teachings teach us to be stewards of the land, and first nations are leaders when it comes to environmental protection and conservation.
Moving forward, any discussion pertaining to environmental protection or conservation needs to be based on full respect for the constitutional, treaty, and internationally recognized inherent rights that we have as indigenous peoples. Central to any action relating to environmental protection is ensuring that each region in Canada has adequate supports to fully and meaningfully engage in all aspects of policy and legislative development. Support for first nations-led and locally driven initiatives like environmental monitoring—an example being indigenous environmental guardians—can help to improve our collective vigilance, build confidence, and serve as an economic development opportunity.
While we are encouraged by the intentions of the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to engage with indigenous peoples in discussions on a number of environment-related issues, we must do more to turn good intentions into concrete actions and investments. This must be a foremost consideration as Canada moves towards achieving its commitments domestically under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and internationally under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Unfortunately, to date we are not satisfied that enough has been done through engagement processes, but we continue to work with our federal counterparts to address our concerns and support the realization of a true nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship. We recognize that this takes time. We are beginning to see new efforts and initiatives, but we also recognize that some people and governments are resistant to change and don't want to have us at the table.
We believe this is an opportunity for the federal government to take a leadership role in this regard and unite all parties in a collective and collaborative process. It is through opportunities such as this that we will build a momentum necessary to turn these challenges around, to effect change on the ground, in our communities as well as nationally and internationally.
has said, “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn. And no time to waste.”
We welcome this opportunity for discussion. We will also give a formal submission to you before the deadline.
If there are other outstanding comments and issues that come up today, we'll also include it in that brief.
Thank you, Madam.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, esteemed members of the committee. It's a great opportunity to be here to speak with you today and also to meet many of you. Before these hearings started, I think almost every member of the committee I met, almost without fail—I think there might have been one—was saying to me, we're all interested to know why the Retail Council of Canada is here and what their interest is in CEPA.
I'm here to answer that question. It has to do with the chemicals management plan and the reporting on chemicals as they appear in finished consumer products. Before I go there, I will give a quick introduction to the Retail Council of Canada, or the RCC, for those of you who aren't familiar with us.
The RCC has been the voice of retail in Canada since 1963.
In the private sector, the retail industry is the largest employer in Canada. Over 2 million Canadians work in our industry. It is estimated that our industry generated over $59 billion in salaries and $340 billion in sales in 2015. Moreover, these figures exclude the sale of vehicles and fuel. Members of the Retail Council of Canada, or the RCC, account for more than two-thirds of retail sales in Canada.
The RCC is a not-for-profit, industry-funded association. It represents small, medium and large retailers in all communities, right across Canada.
Recognized as the voice of retailers in Canada, the RCC represents more than 45,000 store fronts of all retail formats, including department, grocery, speciality, discount, and independent stores, and online merchants.
The Retail Council of Canada and its members are strong supporters of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, otherwise known as CEPA.
The act establishes pollution prevention as a cornerstone of national measures to reduce toxic substances in the environment. It also offers a wide range of tools to manage toxic substances, other sources of pollution, and waste. Finally, it encourages greater public and industry participation in decision-making.
Retailers are also very supportive of the chemicals management plan under CEPA, which is widely recognized as a world-class program. The chemicals management plan, of course, as members of this committee will know, is Canada's approach to assessing and managing chemicals under CEPA.
Chemicals are an integral part of our everyday life, essential to our economy, our communities, our homes, and of course, the products we buy. While chemical substances have benefits, they may also have harmful effects to human health and the environment if they are not properly managed and depending on how they're used.
Founded in 2006 and managed by the Departments of the Environment and Health, the chemicals management plan builds on previous initiatives to protect human health and the environment by assessing chemicals used in Canada and by taking action on those chemicals found to be harmful. The chemicals management plan uses a variety of tools to gather information from businesses, including voluntary surveys, as well as non-voluntary or mandatory surveys under section 71 of the act.
The chemicals management plan originally targeted importers of chemicals, or the manufacturers of the chemicals themselves. This made sense and this approach continues to make sense. After all, if you are making a chemical, or if you're importing a chemical, you know exactly how much you are making or importing. More importantly though, this is how the bulk of chemicals are introduced into Canada.
In late 2012, though, under section 71 of the act, the section that allows for legally mandatory surveys, it was interpreted to include finished consumer products for the first time. For the first time, the act was used to require reporting on chemicals as they appeared in finished consumer goods, things like this table, the microphone, my jacket or tie, or whatever. That particular survey was requesting information on over 2,000 substances.
Retailers found themselves scrambling to determine how much of any particular substance appeared in the jackets they were selling or bracelets, or glassware, or whatever it was. It was really a brand new thing for them. Again, with the chemicals management plan, we're not talking about restricted substances here; we're talking about substances that are used every day.
As you can imagine, this came at a great expense of time, writing letters to suppliers and vendors, often overseas, trying to get at information with very little return. One of our member's estimates that two months and 160 working hours was spent writing to suppliers on the survey for over 2,000 substances.
This is because they, like many of our members who have legal counsel, were advising them that this was a mandatory survey and they had to take due diligence, and the definition of due diligence is to write to the manufacturers and suppliers.
Another member estimates that they wrote to 215 suppliers, 20 of whom responded to them, which represents a response rate of less than 10%, of which 0% was usable. In addition to that, we did a quick internal survey of 10 of our members and found that three surveys done toward the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 had less than a 5% response rate. This has to do, again, with the notion of due diligence and when it's a mandatory survey, having to write to all your suppliers because you don't know whether these substances are going to appear or not.
This was a lot of legal red tape, and the cost of these mandatory surveys very clearly outweighed the limited benefits. Of course, any new cost introduced to the system ultimately gets translated to higher prices for consumers, so that would contribute to the U.S.-Canada price gap and things like that, which is significant enough already.
Another approach has been taken during that time and since then. We have great working relationships with officials in the Departments of ht Environment and Health, and a couple of voluntary surveys have been conducted that have yielded better results, but at the same time retailers were able to focus their efforts on the vendors where they suspected that some of these chemicals would be found in some of their products and where they'd get better response rates, so the same retailer that spent two months and 160 working hours to write suppliers on a mandatory survey estimates that they spent five hours on a voluntary survey and were able to achieve similar amounts of information, because they were able to target their efforts.
This voluntary approach frees up time and resources and allows retailers to pursue information where it most likely resides, rather than going through the motions to satisfy legal red tape. A smaller, more manageable number of substances, perhaps four or six substances of the highest concern rather than 2,000-plus, would allow retailers to track down information on those chemicals of greatest concern. Therefore, in this particular case of finished consumer goods, less yields more and therefore provides better protection to human health and the environment.
We are suggesting that CEPA would benefit from targeted amendments to specifically exclude mandatory legal reporting on substances as they appear in finished consumer goods. Targeting manufacturers and importers of the substances themselves is what makes the most sense, not finished consumer goods. In the instances where there are substances of great concern and it's deemed necessary, the voluntary approach has already demonstrated to be more cost-effective and yield better results, and of course the Retail Council of Canada would be happy to provide this committee with suggested wording on what that amendment would look like.
I have one last comment, if I may. It's not specifically related to the act but has to do with communication around the chemicals management plan. We have found that both communication to the public and communication back to businesses could be improved upon. A lot of Canadians aren't familiar with the chemicals management plan. A lot of what is available is written in fairly technical language, so it would benefit from additional communication and more plain language. In addition to that, I can only speak on behalf of retailers, but retailers providing all this information to government and not hearing back on what that information was used for, I think that would go a long way toward building good faith with businesses so that people know what they're feeding that information into.
To conclude, RCC and its members support CEPA and the chemicals management plan. It would benefit from targeted amendments to specifically exclude mandatory legal reporting on substances as they appear in finished consumer products. The primary focus of the program must remain where accurate information is obtainable from the importers and manufacturers of chemicals themselves, and when necessary, a voluntary basis should be used for finished consumer products. This would free up resources that are currently being used on legal red tape, allowing retailers to focus limited resources on tracking down information on the substances of greatest concern.
In turn this would help keep the price of consumer goods in Canada as competitive as possible while also providing more information more quickly, thereby helping to better protect human health and the environment.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and members of the committee, for inviting the Canadian Electricity Association to appear before you on this important review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
I'm very pleased to represent the association, along with member and colleague, Dr. Ahmed Idriss, senior environmental adviser with the Capital Power Corporation, based in Edmonton, Alberta, and the chair of the CEA's air issues committee. Together, we'll provide you with the electricity sector's perspective as it relates to CEPA.
First, a few words about our association. The CEA is the national voice and forum for the electricity sector across Canada. This year we will celebrate our 125th anniversary. Our membership comprises generation, transmission, and distribution companies from across Canada, as well as manufacturers, technology companies, and consulting firms representing the full spectrum of electricity suppliers.
The association and its corporate utility members are also committed to sustainable development, a key goal of CEPA, 1999. In fact, our journey on environmental sustainability started way back in 1997. We were the first sector to mandate member companies to implement the ISO 14001 standard on environmental management systems.
Since 2009, we have expanded the scope of our sustainability efforts through the creation of the sustainable electricity program, which is a triple bottom-line program consistent with national and global principles of sustainable development.
Electricity is, in a word, indispensable. It is indispensable to the quality of life of Canadians and to the competitiveness of our economy. In fact, the electricity sector contributed $30 billion in 2015 to Canada's GDP, making it a significant contributor to the Canadian economy. Over 80% of our electricity generation portfolio is also greenhouse-gas free, making us one of the cleanest in the world. Compared to our neighbours to the south, we have an enormous clean-energy advantage and we must work hard to maintain that.
It is with pride that I tell you that no other Canadian industrial sector has reduced their carbon footprint to the extent that our sector has over the last decade. Since 2005, the sector has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, and it is expected to decrease significantly more by 2030, through more efficient technologies and renewable power.
Given CEPA's focus on pollution prevention, you should also note that the electricity sector's contribution to other air pollutants is also steadily declining, helping to reduce smog and associated health impacts. Relative to 2000, the electricity sector's sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury emissions have all declined by just over 50%.
On many environmental issues, the sector has made significant progress. It is not the same sector relative to when CEPA came into force in March 2000. Electricity in society is also more prevalent today than ever before. From smart phones to electric cars, you need safe, sustainable, and reliable electricity, and we must continue to renew and modernize our infrastructure to meet the needs of the 21st century.
The Conference Board of Canada estimates that electricity infrastructure renewal and modernization will require an investment of $350 billion between 2010 and 2030. This represents a significant capital investment and speaks to the importance of having a clear, consistent, predictable, and efficient regulatory system.
CEPA is critical in this regard. We have seven specific issues to address today. I will speak to the first two, and Ahmed will speak to the rest.
First, on consistency of federal legislation, it is important to remember that the electricity sector is regulated under many environmental statutes in addition to CEPA. We would ask the committee to consider the overall burden on our sector and ensure other statutes will not lead to duplication of effort.
Second is the use of aboriginal traditional knowledge. CEA members also have a long history of consulting and working with aboriginal people. Just recently, CEA released a set of national principles for engagement of aboriginal peoples. We are supportive of the use of aboriginal traditional knowledge where applicable. We believe that any concerns with either consultation with aboriginal peoples or aboriginal traditional knowledge are best addressed in the preamble to the act.
Now, I am going to ask my colleague, Dr. Ahmed Idriss, to speak to some of the other issues related to CEPA.
I would like to thank the committee for this opportunity. I will speak to five additional issues of importance.
Our third issue is equivalency agreements. The act should continue to facilitate the use of equivalency agreements with the provinces to leverage local knowledge and avoid duplication of federal and provincial efforts. A positive example of this arrangement under CEPA is the arrangement between the federal government and Nova Scotia regulating greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production. As well, we believe different levels of governments should be able to negotiate appropriate expiration dates on agreements.
Fourth is transparency and public participation in cases of significant environmental harm. The sector supports enhanced transparency through the CEPA registry and greater opportunities for public participation in cases of significant environmental harm. However, emphasis on insignificant incidents is neither a practical nor an efficient use of resources for individuals, industry, or government.
Fifth, on information gathering, the electricity sector is supportive of current provisions related to information gathering. We have been reporting emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants to the national pollutant release inventory, NPRI, for many years in a timely and accurate manner. If further information is necessary, the government can request such information through regulations where applicable. We do not think an amendment to the act is necessary to enhance this function.
Sixth is on the risk-based system. CEA members believe that CEPA currently achieves an appropriate balance between risk and hazard, and the current focus on managing risk is balanced, reasonable, and should be maintained. The electricity sector activities are based on risk assessment and management, whether the issues are related to environment or human health. Hazards can never be 100% eliminated, nor would attempting to do so be a wise use of effort and resources. However, risks can be and are being well managed in the electricity sector. We do not think further amendments are needed in this regard.
Seventh, with regard to the chemicals management plan, it has a long track record of success. Under the current system, an assessment of possible alternatives occurs whenever a chemical is assessed and determined to be toxic. We support maintaining the current system and not imposing mandatory assessment of alternatives to substances before they are deemed to be toxic.
This concludes our comments on specific issues.
I will pass it back to Channa.
Good afternoon. I am Parisa Ariya, James McGill professor, McGill, Canada research chair, tier one, senior chair.
I had the opportunity to train over 150 people in my laboratories in the departments of chemistry and atmospheric and oceanic sciences at McGill, leading to five high-tech spin-off companies, 15 professors, and many leaders in government as well as the environment. I've had the opportunity also to act as the lead author for two UNEP science reports in the chemical and physical transformation of compounds, as well as acting as the chair of the joint European committee for climate change.
As a scientist, I am here, and I find it illogical to not be able to present you, as a physical chemist and a physical scientist, the data on which my arguments are based. Having said that, as a physicist and chemist, I'm going to show you what I think using also last-minute experiments.
What I'm getting at is, when you look at CEPA, there are lots of good things about it. But since 1999, there are lots of shortcomings as well. For example, the nanoparticles, emerging contaminants, and so forth were pushed into the existing laws, which are not characterized. What I'm going to show you is what more should be done. We have recommendations about aerosols that are regulated but not enforced.
What I'm trying to do today is, starting with one sentence, I think cutting carbon is good, the carbon tax is good, but based on the data evaluation of over 12 years of data, I don't believe that a cap-and-trade system is a logical process to follow because it has resulted in contradictory data over the years. However, the carbon tax is a good idea.
Actually I want to bring something that brings people together. Environment is not a Liberal platform or a Conservative platform or an NDP platform. Environment is not right wing or left wing. It's everybody's problem. It affects our health. It affects our climate, and we have to find solutions together.
I have heard many times how much it costs, and I bring you some of the costs, but one of the questions I would like every single one of you to think about is this: what is the cost of doing nothing? What is the cost of continuing to do the things you do, which is basically nothing?
What I know is our planet, we call it metastable. Because I was deprived of my audio-visual because of the French language.... Funnily, I must be the only native francophone in the room.
It is at a metastable position. Metastable means that, like my keys, which go back and forth around what we call the “axis of symmetry”, when we have some changes, which we call “forcing”, our planet can go back naturally to its original position; that is, until the emissions go so far that the planet cannot seek its natural position, and then it goes to an unstable position. That's why we are worried about climate change.
Not that many of the natural processes are strong, but many of the anthropogenic-emitted processes are such that they can bring the planet, which is naturally in a metastable position, to an unstable position. That's why there is urgency to act now.
What we do know for sure is that human anthropogenic activity, including fossil fuel-based processes, do impact climate. We also know what the sound policy evidence and sustainable technology can do. I want to respectfully make a comment about sustainability. Sustainability is a beautiful word that has been used by different people in different contexts, but in many cases doesn't mean what we want it to mean.
One of the first molecules that was called sustainable and green was chlorofluorocarbons, which led to the destruction of the ozone because we didn't do the life-cycle analysis at the beginning. We thought it was energetic, and it was. We thought it was facile, or very effective, and it was. That's because of not thinking it through, not looking at it in depth. We had to stop that process, which was led by someone who was actually my supervisor, Paul Crutzen, who got the Nobel Prize. We could reverse the process through regulations such as the Montreal protocol.
I looked at bringing you costs because you will appreciate costs better than numbers that form from science. One thing that we have to keep in mind is that climate change is estimated to cost approximately $5 billion by 2020 in Canada; air pollution, $8 billion. For extreme weather, the number is more rounded. On average, it's about $630 million.
When you look at these processes, what are you looking at when we talk about air pollutants and contaminants? With regard to air pollutants, there are millions of compounds, such as ozone, NOx, VOCs, SOx, and particulate matter, which are particles that are very small, from zero to 100 nanometres. In a minute, I will get to why I care about these small particles.
Also, there are emerging contaminants, composites. Many of them are natural, but when you combine them, their life-cycle analysis in nature isn't the same. Therefore, you can actually pass it in law as natural or green or sustainable, but the life-cycle analysis has been shown in many studies to not be identical.
Regarding the effect of air, air is important. It is the fastest-moving fluid in the environment. This means that as soon as you emit pollutants from water or soil, when they get to air, they are subject to long-range transportation. Therefore, the effects can be not only local, but also regional and global. For example, when you mentioned mercury that was a problem from the electricity companies, yes, they did decrease it, but still they have a lot of black carbon and particle emissions coming in. The effect is that, from the air, they affect water and soil and biota, in general.
One thing I would like to mention is that, yes, the environment is complex. Yes, there are lots of chemical and physical processes that are going on at the same time, but if we are smart enough, we will be able to see the trends. That happened when we regulated, very beautifully, the complex reactions of ozone. They showed that actually we don't need to cut all the precursors at the same time. We scientists showed that when you have, for example, huge amounts of NOx, or low amounts of NOx, or low amounts of VOCs, by cutting one, not two, you can bring about the same reduction in ozone.
That's what I want to make sure that the industry knows, that the science right now, since the 1999 CEPA, has evolved significantly. We have to have more interaction amongst scientists, industries, and policy-makers to know that, yes, there are intelligent ways to cut and save money and be good for the environment.
One of the areas of CEPA where we have not done a good job is aerosols. Aerosols are airborne particles that go from a few nanometres to a few microns. Their lifetime is long. They can go into nanoparticles. They can be subject to transport. They can go to the native communities and to many others, even from, say, Montreal. In that case, they also can have a global effect. If they are larger, they go very quickly to places close to their origin.
What are they? They are pollen. They are bacteria. They are dust. They are emerging contaminants. They are nanoparticles. Those are the composites, and so forth. They have one thing in common. Two agencies, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the World Health Organization—two different international organizations for health and climate—both concur that aerosols are their priority, for totally different reasons.
For climate, aerosol and cloud interactions are the major uncertainty in all domains of climate change. The uncertainty is in the magnitude of all greenhouse gases together. In health, aerosols are a cause of respiratory and other diseases. One of the nanoparticles, for example, black carbon, has both health effects and climate effects. Nanoparticles have many properties, such as size, composition, surface properties, and so forth. The major question becomes whether we will be able to see them. Will we be able to characterize them to mandate them? The answer is, after the last 17 years, I would say, yes.
We have the capability to do analysis. We have the capability to do chemical characterization and laboratory experiments, and yes, we are able to do modelling at the moment from the satellite, from the ground, and so forth.
Last, we can use these particles for green technology. These are natural and abundant particles, and in many of the papers right now they are becoming the top articles for many associations, including for the American chemical associations, and including our own work.
Absolutely—and I concur with Bill—as Canadians right now, because of the American election, we need to take the leadership. The time is now. There is a huge opportunity for us to start regulating the aerosols and particles that we have recommended but you have not enforced yet. We have a huge opportunity for emerging contaminants and nanoparticles. It brings us highly qualified personnel and it brings jobs, and it also answers the question, what is the cost to our health of not doing anything?
Aerosols weren't generated yesterday and will change tomorrow. They've been there for a long time, a few billion years.
Coming back to your question, your question is very nice. The way I would write it, I would do it the same way as I did with the Europeans, by looking into what we know now and what the emerging fields are that are coming. Provide the solid regulations on something that we know for sure. For example, the aerosol nanoparticle that I mentioned to you, we know for sure that two completely different international organizations, for totally different reasons, put them as a top priority.
In climate change, we don't put it as a second or a third priority, but as a top priority. It shows you it is certainly...and the organizations normally are a little conservative, because we don't want to say something that is not going to be true. In that case, for example, the aerosol is a priority because it is coming from two totally different communities. That is what we know. We know 400 million people every year die because of that. We see the particles in their systems. When you go to Beijing and you look at the cancers, that is not something that is imaginary. Those are real.
What should a good plan be? It constitutes the facts that we know of, and those are the emerging domains. We need to provide facility for the future ones. That's why I chose the words “emerging pollutant”. Emerging pollutant, by putting that in, gives you the facility for future incorporation, because it means anything. Right now, the term “new material” is used. New material means it is new. As I mentioned to you, many of the materials really are not new material, they are a twisting of the old material in a recombination.
In that case, the vocabulary I use provides flexibility for future things. For example, aerosol is mandated and enforced in the EU, and it is enforced even by the EPA in the U.S. I don't know what Trump is going to do. I don't know if his thoughts are logical to start with. Those systems, for example, for ozone formation, also have a health impact. It's not only for one reason, for climate; it's also for the health impact, as well. Those are the things that we know for sure now, and we will be able implement them. It just makes sense, because the data is overwhelmingly in favour of that.
We've run out of time to get the answer to that.
Here's what we're going to do, because we have run out of time. I think it's a good question.
To our guests, we really appreciate your coming and sharing your insights with us. You may have had questions or some thoughts that you haven't been able to respond to because of the limited time. Is there a chance, if you feel so inclined, that you would share those with us? The sooner that happens, the better because we are trying to bring this to a close. We have more witnesses next week. By the end of next week, if you could think about getting any further thoughts to us, we would welcome it.
We're going to move into that very last bit of time because, before everybody takes off, I need to do a bit of committee business. It's not going to be in camera, so feel comfortable getting your stuff together, and we'll carry on with the work of the committee. Thanks again.
The reason I asked for a little bit of committee business—I need your attention—is that I just got informed today that we will not have the draft report available for December 6, as we had anticipated. We thought we would book December 6, 8, 13, and 15, four sessions, for us to go over the report and try to refine it so we could possibly put it in front of the government before we rose. It was very ambitious. We aren't able to have that report in front of us on December 6. We're hoping to get it on December 7, potentially, by the end of the day. Then we will have our session on December 8.
I still think that's valid. It doesn't give us much time to go through the study before we have to start dealing with it in committee. I just want to make sure people are still comfortable with our getting it on the Wednesday and then coming in and starting to deal with it on December 8.