Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Please let me know if you cannot hear me or if I'm not speaking clearly enough.
We do welcome this opportunity to appear before the committee. We particularly welcome the opportunity to receive advice and recommendations pertaining to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Madam Chair, I would like to make my opening statement in English, but I am prepared to try to answer any questions in English or in French.
I'm here today with my colleague from Environment and Climate Change Canada, John Moffet, who will be providing a detailed overview of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Before that, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about some of the key initiatives that we have undertaken under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in order to better protect the health and environment of Canadians. To that effect, I'd like to talk briefly about the chemicals management plan and the air quality management system, both initiatives that fall under CEPA.
Heath Canada works closely with Environment and Climate Change Canada in implementing parts 5 and 6 of CEPA related to chemicals and organisms. This work included the categorization of 23,000 existing substances that were in use in Canada prior to the creation of CEPA in 1988. That means substances that had not been assessed for risk to Canadians or the environment. Through the categorization process, 4,300 substances were identified by our departments as requiring further attention.
A key goal under the chemicals management plan is to ensure that by 2020 all of these 4,300 substances will have been assessed for potential risks, both to the environment and to health, and subsequently managed as appropriate. Between 2006 and 2016, our departments have assessed approximately 2,700 substances and have implemented or are proposing to implement risk management actions for approximately 300 of these. We are about to embark on the third phase of the chemicals management plan, with the objective of assessing a further 1,550 substances over the next five years.
The CMP, or chemicals management plan, has also allowed us to better integrate our departmental chemical programs and to continue to assess and, as required, manage some 450 new substances in Canada each year. So it's for both existing and new substances. It is recognized that even after we've assessed the 4,300 categorized substances, we will still need to manage those determined to be harmful to human health or to the environment and to consider new science that could trigger a need to reassess existing substances. So the work will continue. It needs to go on to ensure that we stay up to date and, as I said, reassess substances as the science indicates.
It is important to note that international partnerships and collaborations are key in being able to effectively and efficiently identify and manage chemical risks. For example, joint efforts pursued through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations Environment Programme help us in sharing knowledge, expertise, and information on chemicals. It allows us to learn from others and equally for others to learn from us.
Canada has used its engagement on chemical issues to increase efficiency in program delivery through regulatory, scientific, and technical co-operation. In addition, Environment and Climate Change Canada engages internationally to manage substances that cannot be managed exclusively via domestic means. In a number of cases, we work to negotiate legally binding agreements, such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Minamata Convention on Mercury. We have to ensure that domestic measures are implemented to comply with the commitments and obligations under these conventions.
Under the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council our departments are actively engaged in aligning some risk assessment and management approaches with the U.S. environmental protection acts, specifically through the development of common approaches to identify priorities and to address emerging risks that are shared by both countries. This co-operation internationally is integral to our moving forward with the chemicals management plan and effectively managing chemicals in Canada.
Canada is also leading the development of a resolution on sound chemicals management at the 69th World Health Assembly this coming May. The purpose of the resolution is to broaden the health sector engagement in chemicals management domestically and internationally, with the goal of reducing the impact of chemicals on health.
I'm going to move from chemicals management to air quality, because I think that's another significant issue that we do address through CEPA.
As with chemicals, Canada has supported global action on improving air quality through the World Health Organization. Canada supported a resolution last year on addressing the health impacts of air pollution. The resolution recognizes the global public health effects of air pollution and calls on the World Health Organization to develop a path forward for enhanced global response to the adverse health effects of air pollution.
In 2012, the World Health Organization stated that approximately four million people around the world in the year 2012 died prematurely as a result of air pollution, particularly in vulnerable populations in developing countries. The WHO also reported in 2013 that there are approximately 900,000 premature deaths in Canada as a result of exposure to fine particulate matter.
Canada will contribute expertise on quantifying the health impacts of air pollution with the WHO and monitor and report ambient pollutant levels through our national air pollution monitoring system in Canada. We also work with Dalhousie University in monitoring air pollution globally through the use of satellites. This is intended to help the WHO have a better handle on air pollution globally.
We also have expertise in calculating the health and economic benefits of actions to address air pollution, and on raising awareness and building capacity on air health issues among the health sector.
Turning our attention to the air quality in Canada, air quality is generally good in Canada, but collaborative action is required to keep clean areas clean, and to promote continuous improvement of air quality. In Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada is leading, with the support of Health Canada, actions to improve air quality with the objective of having a national approach to air quality management. It's called the air quality management system and it's under the authority of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. It is intended to replace the traditional patchwork of approaches we have used to manage air quality across the country. This is a collaborative approach involving our two departments. It involves all provinces, territories, and aboriginal peoples, and engages both industry and health and environmental non-governmental organizations in developing and implementing ways to improve air quality across the country.
More specifically, we focus on developing new, more stringent air quality standards called CAAQS, or Canadian ambient air quality standards, based on protecting both health and the environment. Each standard will have defined management levels beneath the standard that indicate levels at which action is required to prevent the air quality of a region from deteriorating, or with the intention of keeping clean areas clean.
It's not just a pollute up to standard; we have levels below that standard that require action to improve.
Under the leadership of Environment and Climate Change Canada new base level industrial emission requirements will be put in place as a backstop for provincial and territorial requirements to ensure reduced emissions. In addition, air zones are being set up across the country to engage governments, municipalities, and stakeholders in monitoring and managing local and regional air quality. This is a means to actually get people on the ground locally and regionally to be actively engaged in addressing the air quality of their environment.
In addition, Environment and Climate Change Canada, together with Health Canada, will continue to work with the United States to address the challenges of transboundary air pollution under the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement. This has been quite an effective tool in reducing emissions. It was initially set up to look at acid rain, but it is now extended into a range of air pollution issues where we try to ensure consistency in terms of standards and approaches. However, our standards tend to be more stringent than those of the United States.
In summary, our work is based on collaboration, engagement, and consensus building, coupled with a solid foundation of science and research, and supported by strong federal legislation and particularly the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
We do look forward to hearing your views and recommendations.
Thank you very much.
I'll provide a little bit of background. Health Canada was formed before the Great War. Environment Canada was formed in 1971. Until 1988, Environment Canada operated on the basis of using various statutes that pre-existed the department. In 1988, Parliament consolidated a number of statutes and parts of statutes into what then became known as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. That act had a primary focus on pollution, but significantly on pollution from both an environmental perspective and a human health perspective. That, of course, remains the primary focus of CEPA today.
During the 1990s, CEPA 88 underwent a very extensive review by your committee's predecessor, chaired by Charles Caccia. The review resulted in a very comprehensive set of recommendations to enhance the act and strengthen it in numerous ways. The government provided a detailed response, and then effectively tabled a new bill, which in turn went through an extensive clause-by-clause review and resulted in CEPA 99. Since then, CEPA 99 has undergone a handful of minor modifications, a review by a House committee, and a parallel review by a Senate committee in 2006 and 2007. However, no subsequent Parliamentary reviews and no comprehensive set of reforms have been made to the act since it was introduced in 1999.
Environment and Climate Change Canada has two primary pollution statutes. One is the Fisheries Act, which contains a prohibition on depositing deleterious substances in the water. That's the primary statutory authority for addressing water pollution. However, for all other pollution, CEPA is our main statute. Of course, many other departments have other statutes that address environment and health risks. Most of those statutes are product focused. For example, Agriculture Canada and CFIA have a number of statutes that focus on seeds, feeds, etc. Our colleagues at Health Canada have the Food and Drugs Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, a lot of product-focused acts.
The way CEPA generally works is that if another act provides for equivalent environmental and health protection, CEPA stands down and the other act operates, which makes sense because that act has been designed specifically for that set of products. However, CEPA sets some basic requirements and allows the government to intervene in a wide range of areas.
We tend to think of CEPA as providing a tool box, a broad set of authorities to address a wide range of issues using a wide range of tools. In some cases, however, the act is a little more prescriptive and that's generally the case where Parliament has decided to use the act to bring into Canadian law a commitment that we've made internationally. I'll get to a couple of examples later in my presentation.
Now, for those of you who have attempted to wade through CEPA, or have even been deterred by the bulk of it, you'll know that it's an extensive act and it's a complicated statute. One way to understand it is simply by looking at the structure to determine which chapter addresses what issue. Another way to think about it is what broad sets of authorities it contains, what tools it enables the government to use. A third way to understand it is as to what subjects or issues the government has used CEPA to address.
I am going to take you through all three, and I hope that will give you a good basis for understanding the statute.
Slide 5 gives you a summary of the main structure of the act. The actual table of contents is reproduced in annex B on slide 20. The front end of the statute gives some crosscutting authorities and some obligations related to requirements for transparency and public participation, some authorities for gathering information to determine what kinds of issues to address, and authorities for some of the tools that we use, objectives, guidelines, and codes of practice.
My colleague John Cooper has described the work the government does to address chemicals under the chemicals management plan. The legal framework for that work is primarily found in parts 4, 5, and 6 of CEPA, which are premised on this test of whether a substance is toxic. That is a term that is carefully defined in the act and is a much broader term than the meaning of “toxic” in normal parlance. It essentially means harmful to health, harmful to the environment, or harmful to the environment on which human life depends. It's a very broad definition of risk. The act separates what one might think of as chemicals or inanimate products, and animate products or toxic substances in living organisms, but basically the same regime applies to both.
Part 7 focuses on various specific sources of pollution. You can trace the history of some of those provisions back to pre-CEPA 1988. Nutrients provisions were in another statute and brought into CEPA at that time. Some of the air pollution provisions for vehicles, fuels, and engines were in other statutes and brought into CEPA. Other provisions in this part, as I mentioned earlier, are designed to address international agreements. There is a set of provisions about ocean disposal, which basically replicate the London protocol under the London convention. Another set of provisions addresses transboundary movement of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable materials. Those are basically designed to enable Canada to comply with its obligations both under a bilateral Canada-U.S. agreement and under an international agreement known as the Basel convention.
We have fairly extensive authorities to address environmental emergencies, both to require planning and to take action. Part 9 allows us to address pollution from government operations, federal undertakings, and activities that occur on federal lands. Collectively, this is known as the federal house. It is important to have these authorities because although the jurisprudence is a little fuzzy, in general, one can say that many provincial environmental laws do not apply to the federal house. Whereas on most land in Canada an activity would be subject to a combination of federal and provincial laws, or federal and territorial laws, within the federal house, whether it's a federal activity or an activity on federal land, including aboriginal land, in general, most of those provincial environmental laws do not apply, so there is a gap that needs to be filled.
Then we have a very extensive enforcement regime.
All told, it's an extensive act and a powerful act. One of our previous ministers actually did wade through the entire act and commented after reading it that CEPA is a Ferrari. I'm not sure I'd go that far. I guess he was one of those rare politicians who are prone to hyperbole.
An hon. member: Oh, oh!
Mr. John Moffet: I'm glad somebody laughed. I had to try.
But the statute has extensive authorities and is used to address a wide range of issues.
Let me turn to the kinds of authorities we have under the statute.
Of course, environmental and health decision-making needs to be science based and based on good information, so the act gives us broad authority to conduct research. Indeed, it mandates a wide range of research on the parts of both Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada. It also gives us various tools to gather information. In some cases, of course, a producer of a particular substance will be in a much better place to actually conduct a test to enable us to get the information to determine whether there's a problem.
In addition to that kind of information, we also need information about who's using and who's emitting substances and pollutants. We're able to gather that information to enable us to make informed decisions about whether to act and how to act.
I'll talk about the regulatory authority in the act. You will see there are authorities for the government, for the Governor in Council, to pass regulations with respect to virtually all of the issues the act addresses. There is authority to regulate substances that are found to be toxic, or in other words, that meet that test of harm to the environment, harm to health, or harm to the environment on which human health depends.
Similarly, we have the authority to set emission and design standards for air emissions from vehicles and from engines. We have authority to regulate fuel composition. That's important of course because the combustion of fuels can lead to air pollution and greenhouse gases. Also, when we set vehicle and engine standards, we need to ensure that fuel that can be used effectively with those new technologies is available.
You can see the rest of the list. There is a broad set of regulatory authorities.
The act is structured in a very reader-unfriendly manner. You'll see regulatory authorities scattered throughout the act, and then buried in the so-called miscellaneous section right at the back of the act, part 11, Miscellaneous Matters, are two provisions, 322 and 326, that authorize most of those regulatory authorities to include provisions for trading systems. Most people will have heard of air emissions trading, but we have actually used trading systems in five different regulations, not all of which are focused on air, so for renewable fuels, sulphur and gasoline regulations, and so on.
In a couple of places in this deck we've taken the liberty of identifying limitations in the statute. My colleague and I are going to be very careful here. I need to be very careful. We're not here to tell you what you should do. We're not here to tell you what the act should be focused on or indeed how you should amend the act, if at all. But we can tell you that the act addresses this issue and doesn't address that issue, and it's up to you to decide whether it should address that issue. We're treading the fine line between giving you the information you need and not usurping your authority or our minister's authority to make those kinds of judgments.
In the case of trading systems, the broad authority to develop trading systems that we've already demonstrated can be used quite effectively. However, we know from experience in other jurisdictions that in some cases effective trading systems would include features such as auctioning of permits, and we don't have authority to auction permits under CEPA at the moment.
Similarly, because most of CEPA is established under the criminal law head of power, we don't have authority under that head of power and under regulations that are developed under that head of power to impose automatic administrative penalties. However, we know that in some jurisdictions that have effective trading systems, it's a market-based system and the market works best in response to immediate, clear signals including penalties that are a bit different than can be available through a criminal penalty, which of course can be significant but can be a little uncertain in terms of whether it's actually going to be imposed, when it's going to be imposed, and what the amount is going to be.
In addition to regulations, there are a number of other tools or instruments that the act allows us to use to address risks. We have permit systems for ocean disposal, for transboundary movement of waste, and for exports of substances that are on the export control list.
We have something called pollution prevention plans. Basically, that derives from some very interesting work that was done in the 1980s primarily in the United States. It looked at energy efficiency and basically called into question the classic economic theory that if there is a piece of change on the ground, the rational actor will pick it up. Of course, while we all might think we're rational, we're not all-seeing and all-knowing, and any company is going to have limitations on its ability to identify all possible cost-saving opportunities.
In the case of energy efficiency, a number of initiatives in the United States basically required companies to undertake energy efficiency plans. They didn't have to actually do anything other than a plan to look at where their energy efficiency opportunities were. The result was overwhelmingly that companies adopted energy efficiency initiatives because they identified ways to save money.
Pollution prevention planning is the same concept. We'll tell you that there's an issue; we'll tell you what the environmental objective or concern is, and we'll require you to do a plan to look at ways within your operation to address that issue. If you say that you've done the plan and you're not going to do anything, you've complied with the law as long as you've done a plan. We've used this authority on numerous occasions and in no situation have we had to subsequently step in and regulate, because companies have consistently stepped up to the plate and said they would do what was needed to address the environmental issue. That was a tool that was introduced in CEPA in 1999.
We also, as my colleague mentioned, have the authority to issue guidelines, air quality guidelines and water quality guidelines. Those can just go out there to provide information. They can be taken up by provinces and incorporated into their permitting systems or be taken up by federal government requirements.
Similarly, we have the authority to issue codes of practice, which are basically a way in which a particular industrial process should ideally be undertaken. Again, those can just be published and put out there for good practice, or they can be incorporated into law either provincially or federally.
Moving to the robust enforcement regime that we have, just like risk management tools, the basic underlying goal in CEPA is to provide enforcement officials with a range of tools to respond to a situation appropriately so that you don't have only the two options of turning a blind eye or prosecuting.
Of course, prosecution is costly to the government. It may be overkill in the case of a relatively innocent mistake. It's totally appropriate in the case of an egregious offence or a repeat offender, but you need the intermediate tools to bring people back into compliance. That's the basic structure of the act, to provide a range of tools.
Slide 11 summarizes some of the authorities we have for intergovernmental co-operation. We have authorities for what are called equivalency agreements. If a province, territory, or aboriginal government is addressing the same issue and achieving the same outcome, then we can have an agreement followed by a Governor in Council order that essentially stands down the application of CEPA for that particular issue in that particular jurisdiction. There is no point having two requirements focused on the same issue.
We also have the authority to tailor regulations. Generally a regulation under CEPA applies nationwide, but we have the authority, subject to some conditions, to focus a regulation on a particular part of the country where environmental or health concerns warrant that kind of tailoring.
The act contains a number of requirements for consultation that go beyond the basic requirements for consultation when developing regulations or other kinds of formal instruments. It also has obligations to publish every proposed and final decision on the web-based environmental registry and obligations to consult on every one of those decisions with provinces, territories, and aboriginal governments through the CEPA National Advisory Committee, which Mr. Cooper and I co-chair.
The next six slides talk about the kinds of issues we have addressed under CEPA. My colleague introduced the chemicals management plan. That plan subsumes two broad sets of activities, one to address new substances and one to address existing substances.
What do I mean by that? Under CEPA 88, we drew up the domestic substances list. That was a list of all substances that were in commercial use in Canada above certain thresholds in the mid to late 1980s. Basically, if a substance is not on that list, it's considered new. It cannot be used in Canada until it goes through a pre-market notification process.
We have a regulation that indicates the information you have to provide, and then the law requires us to take that information and assess it within a certain period of time. Based on that assessment, the ministers can say that you're good to go and you can use it, or you can use it subject to conditions, or you can't use it at all.
If a substance is on that list, however—and there were 23,000 substances on that list—they are existing substances. People have made investments in using those substances. They are in all kinds of products and processes. Canada, like every other country in the world, confronted this issue in the 1990s. What do we do with these tens of thousands of substances that haven't been assessed but are in use?
Canada developed a set of requirements that is unique in the world. This was the categorization obligation. CEPA 99 set out some basic criteria and required the departments of environment and health to basically triage those 23,000 substances based on some basic criteria to identify substances that should be a priority for a full assessment.
We went from 23,000 to 4,300, and then developed the chemicals management plan in 2007, in which we made a commitment to complete assessments of those 4,300 substances by 2020. We're on track to complete that set of assessments.
Of course, if we identify a substance that needs to be risk managed following one of those assessments, then we develop a risk management instrument using one of the tools under CEPA.
Let me turn to air pollution and greenhouse gases. Sorry, I should speak to a couple of the issues on slides 12 and 13.
In CEPA 1999, Parliament wanted to distinguish among substances that were persistent and bioaccumulative and inherently toxic. This was a category of substances that had been identified by scientists for a long time and which had then been taken up by the International Joint Commission as a set of substances that needed particular attention and that should be virtually eliminated. The act establishes some obligations for virtual elimination.
The bottom line is that we are not able to implement all of those obligations for all substances that meet those criteria; moreover, some of those obligations are redundant. I'll give you one example. We're obliged to develop a ministerial regulation and a virtual elimination plan for substances that meet these criteria; however, when a substance meets these criteria, typically what we do is add it to the Governor in Council regulation known as the “prohibition of various substances”. Well, if the Governor in Council has prohibited the use of this substance, there is not much point in also developing a requirement to do a virtual elimination plan and also have the minister promulgate a regulation. So, there are some issues, not with the underlying policy intent, but with the actual mechanics in the act.
Another issue we've started to confront more and more comes back to the explanation I gave you earlier, that the federal government addresses substances both through CEPA and through a number of product-specific statutes that are typically housed in departments other than Environment and Climate Change Canada, departments that have particular scientific expertise around the substance in question.
Again, think about the Feeds Act. The experts in agricultural feeds are the CFIA and Agriculture Canada, not Environment Canada. Health Canada has entire organizations focused on assessing and managing food, drugs, and consumer products such as baby bottles. What CEPA does is it says that if it's toxic and if the Governor in Council adds a substance to the list of toxic substances, then we have to manage the substance under CEPA, even if another statute might be the better one to use to manage the substance. I think we've effectively managed all of those substances, but we've run into some legal challenges in taking the most appropriate action.
The same thing applies to new substances. As I said earlier, the way CEPA works is that CEPA stands down if another statute provides for an equivalent pre-market notification and assessment requirement that covers both environment and health risks. A number of statutes, however, were developed pre-CEPA and may require pre-market notification and assessment of health risks, but not of environmental risks. We then have situations in which some products that are addressed under Agriculture Canada have equivalent statutory authorities, but some don't; some products that would logically be assessed by our colleagues at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can't be managed under their statutes, so they need to undergo pre-market notification and assessment under CEPA, and a decision needs to be made by the ministers of environment and health, even though the actual work is done in another department. There's some wiring that could be sorted out, if you so chose.
Then, we have broad authority over greenhouse gases and air pollution. By most criteria, air contaminants are listed as toxic substances; all of the six greenhouse gases listed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are listed as toxic. We can use the broad regulatory authority for toxic substances to address greenhouse gases.
We also have authority, as I mentioned, to address emissions from vehicles, fuels, and engines. We don't, however, have authority over certain types of sources. Small marine vessels, for example, remain a bit of an outlier.
As another challenge we have, we've given the example of wood stoves. We could address emissions from wood stoves because the emissions are toxic, but that would require placing a regulation on every user of a wood stove. A wood stove itself is basically an inert piece of metal. It's not toxic. At the moment, we can't regulate it because it's not toxic. It might be useful to have the authority to regulate the construction or operation of a product whose use generated or emitted toxic substances. To use the example of wood stoves, you'd be able to place a regulation on the manufacturers and importers, a couple of dozen, instead of the hundreds of thousands of users of wood stoves. It's just the way we regulate vehicle manufacturers and not every owner of a vehicle.
I sense that my time is waning.
If I'm going too fast, slow me down. I'm obviously happy to answer questions after my presentation.
I mentioned earlier that some parts of CEPA are designed to codify in domestic law international obligations.
Slide 15 speaks to two of those situations, where we have a very comprehensive regime that limits disposal at sea, basically in line with the international obligations under the London protocol, which placed very significant limits on what can go into the ocean for disposal. It's largely only inert products, and then only when the government is satisfied that disposal at sea is the environmentally best or preferable option.
Similarly, we have an extensive regime that regulates and establishes a permitting regime for hazardous imports and exports in transboundary movements of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material.
These international regimes, however, are not static and get updated from time to time as new issues emerge. Since CEPA was last amended in a comprehensive manner, there have been two amendments to the London protocol, in 2006 and 2009, and we have not updated CEPA to keep track with and to codify those changes to the international regime.
Going to the next slide on water, I mentioned that in terms of regulating or restricting water pollution, section 36 of the Fisheries Act, which is a broad prohibition, is a powerful tool and is indeed the main tool that Environment and Climate Change Canada uses to restrict discharges into water. We enforce the prohibition, and we have regulations dealing with municipal waste water, effluents from metal mining, and effluents from pulp and paper.
However, we do have two broad sets of authorities to regulate water pollution. One is under the toxics provisions. We have developed a couple of fairly minor regulations under those authorities. Those are quite old. In the last decade or so, the main emphasis has been on the Fisheries Act.
In addition, the main way in which we use CEPA to address water pollution is that under CEPA we can regulate product content in a way that will minimize water pollution. The Fisheries Act has a broad prohibition on putting stuff in the water, but what we can do under some parts of CEPA is regulate product design and content. An example would be the phosphorus content in detergents. Again, rather than regulate how everybody uses their washing machines, we can limit the amount of phosphorus that goes into detergents at the product design and production level. Phosphorus is a problem in fresh water because it can generate excess growth of algae and muck up the ecosystem.
In addition, as my colleague mentioned, we have broad authority to establish guidelines, which has been done extensively, both from a health perspective and from an environment perspective, and in many cases jointly with provinces and territories, resulting in guidelines that are issued under the auspices of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
The final set of authorities I'll speak to are described on slide 17, and there are two. One is emergencies and one is the federal house.
Under emergencies, as the slide indicates, the government has authority to require the preparation of environmental emergency plans. We have a set of regulations that require the development of plans by a wide range of facilities that are using an extensive list of substances, the release of which could be problematic. There's a strong focus on prevention of pollution and on ensuring that potential sources of inadvertent release are well set up to respond to, manage, and mitigate those releases as effectively as possible.
In addition, scattered throughout the act are various authorities that essentially allow the to intervene in the case of an emergency. The minister can require somebody who has been responsible for a spill or other kind of emergency to take action and incur costs. The minister can take action herself, or can compel the government to take action and then recover the costs of taking actions, which of course in some cases may be the most expeditious thing to do.
One technical issue we have is that in some cases you have an emergency; something gets spilled in the water, let's say. There's a bunch of things you could do, but you're not sure which one will work best. Ideally, if you're a scientist, you want to replicate the scenario in a controlled manner, which could mean putting a deleterious substance in the water. Even though you're doing the research for good reasons, that would violate the prohibition in the Fisheries Act for depositing deleterious substances.
Although we have a robust regime that allows us to respond to emergencies, we do have this challenge where in certain types of responses, we might be violating other statutory authorities. That is some kind of wiring that could be addressed in your review of CEPA.
As I noted earlier, we have authorities to address actions on the part of the federal house, although to date these authorities have been used quite sparingly. I think we have two regulations and one code of practice.
We also have a couple of other authorities that allow the government to take action to address specific sources of air pollution and water pollution that cause problems in a transboundary manner if, say, a facility in southern Ontario is causing air pollution and is affecting air quality in Michigan. These authorities have never been used. We have instead established nationwide regimes for water pollution under the Fisheries Act and air pollution under CEPA.
The final slide I'll speak to is the one with a bar chart. The main message is one that I've given to every new minister in the last 10 years and to our colleagues at Treasury Board.
With all excuses to our friends in other departments, like Transport Canada, I think Environment Canada and Health Canada are in a relatively unique situation from a regulatory perspective. The simple example I give is that no new mode of transportation has been invented in the last century. Of course we need to continue to update our transportation regulations, but we're not dealing with new modes of transportation. On the other hand, from an environmental protection perspective, we have not yet assessed all substances that are in use in Canada. Inevitably, we're going to find more that need to be managed. Inevitably the government, regardless of its colour or stripe, is going to decide that in some cases, regulations are warranted, or at least some kind of intervention is warranted.
Similarly, we're starting to implement the federal, provincial and territorial air quality management system that contemplates the federal government setting baseline requirements for numerous air pollutants.
Finally, of course, lots of potential action on greenhouse gas could be taken by the federal government. There are a lot of issues that have not yet been fully understood, assessed, or managed.
You see this growth in this chart. What I'm suggesting is that regardless of the particular predilection for intervention or non-intervention by whatever government is in power, we're likely to see a need to intervene on additional issues over time.
One other point I'd make is that this chart significantly understates the level of activity. This counts discrete initiatives, discrete instruments. A lot of what we do is to amend regulations. I gave you the example earlier of the prohibition of various substances regulations. It's one regulation that covers—I don't have the exact number with me—about a dozen substances. As we identify other substances that need to be essentially prohibited, instead of promulgating a new regulation, we'll add that substance.
Similarly, we regularly update the regulations that address air emissions and vehicle emissions from, for example, light duty vehicles. We're remaining in lockstep with our colleagues in the United States. Each time it's not a new regulation, so it doesn't count in the bar chart here, but it's a significant new activity undertaken by the two departments that adds an increasing level of protection to Canadians and the environment.
With that rapid and broad tour of the statute, I'll stop. As I said, we're both happy to answer any questions that you might have now or in subsequent sessions.