Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee. My name is Richard Aucoin, and I am the executive director of Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
I am very pleased to be here today to provide some opening remarks about the Pest Control Products Act as you begin your review.
I am accompanied today by my colleagues from PMRA, Connie Moase, director of the Health Evaluation Directorate, and Jason Flint, director of the Policy, Communications and Regulatory Affairs Directorate.
PMRA regulates pesticides in Canada under the Pest Control Products Act, on behalf of the Minister of Health, with the primary objective of preventing unacceptable risks to both people and the environment from the use of pesticides.
This is achieved, first and foremost, through a comprehensive science-based pre-market assessment and approval process. In addition, the act provides for post-market activities, such as cyclical re-evaluations, special reviews, monitoring, and compliance and enforcement activities.
The current act was revised in 2002 and was brought into force in 2006. There were three main objectives for the new PCPA: to strengthen health and environmental protection; to provide a very transparent regulatory system; and to strengthen the post-registration control of pesticides.
I would like to take a minute to give examples of how these objectives are met by the PCPA.
Mr. Chair, in 2006 the act was strengthened to provide the authority to regulate pesticides through their entire life cycle, including the removal of pesticides that can no longer meet modern scientific standards. Pesticides can be inherently hazardous substances, so we must take particular care in how we do our scientific reviews to ensure that there are no unacceptable risks. For example, we are required by the Pest Control Products Act to take into account potential pesticide exposure from all sources, including food, air, and water. This gives us the most accurate picture of the potential risks associated with the use of pesticides.
Some Canadians, such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly, may be more sensitive to the effects of pesticide exposure. As such, the Pest Control Products Act requires that additional margins of safety be applied to protect these potentially vulnerable populations.
Science is continually evolving, and new risk assessment methods are being developed all the time. It's important that we keep up to date on these new approaches so that we can ensure the highest degree of protection for Canadians. While the act is very prescriptive in its approach to health and environmental protection, it also provides for some flexibility to incorporate new science and new processes in a rapidly changing regulatory environment. lt also allows us to more quickly and efficiently establish food safety standards. For example, we establish maximum residue levels for pesticides in food under the Pest Control Products Act directly.
A second important area in which the current law was updated is in the area of transparency and openness. Very specific provisions of the act mean that our regulatory activities at PMRA within the department are very accessible to the public. We hold over 30 public consultations each year on all our major regulatory decisions. For example, before we make a major regulatory decision on a new pesticide, we post for consultation the outcome of our scientific reviews and consult with the public to see if they have concerns, comments, or additions. As well, the public can inspect the scientific test data and the information on which we base those decisions. Through these mechanisms, Canadians have the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns regarding proposed regulatory decisions. The PCPA also contains mechanisms that allow any member of the public to ask for reconsideration of a major decision, provided, of course, it's based on scientific grounds.
Canadians can also search our electronic public registry for a wide range of information on approved pesticides. The registry contains records of PMRA's decisions and consultations on the approved products; the strict conditions of use that we impose on pesticides; the product labels, which are a required part of our approval process and highly prescriptive; and our regulations, our policies, our guidelines, and our directives.
The third important area in which the regulation of pesticides was strengthened under this act was specific provisions of the act that support our ability to monitor any effects of pesticides after they've been registered and are being used under real-world conditions, and to take regulatory action as necessary.
For example, under the act there's an obligation to re-evaluate all pesticides on a 15-year cycle. This allows us to assess whether they meet the most current environmental and health standards, and to mitigate any new risks identified. This can include changing the allowable uses of a pesticide. That is, we can withdraw specific uses of a pesticide if it no longer meets our standards.
The current PCPA also has extensive regulation-making authority that allowed us to introduce new regulations regarding the collection of post-market information on pesticide use and effects, through mandatory sales and incident reporting. Manufacturers have been reporting sales volumes of their products since 2008. Sales data like this can be used to estimate national use patterns or trends, and this information is very highly useful in the post-market assessment and monitoring of products.
Our incident reporting program, in which the manufacturers are required by law to report incidents, has been in place since 2007. Members of the public can also report to us through the Internet or other means if they are aware of specific incidents. The program gives PMRA valuable information on any unintended effects of pesticide use, and allows us to take action when risks are identified. Incidents are often the result of the intentional or unintentional misuse of products, and patterns in incidents can help us plan the best course of action. This information can lead us to engage in outreach activities and perhaps clarify label requirements to make consumers more aware of the importance of using the correct products, and using them according to very specific label directions.
PCPA allows PMRA to carry out a robust compliance and enforcement program that gives us the power to inspect anyone regulated under the act, including manufacturers, users, and retailers; and the capacity to enforce compliance with our regulations using measures appropriate to each situation. That can mean anything from education and outreach campaigns, to very significant monetary penalties.
Today, Mr. Chair, the Pest Control Products Act continues to afford PMRA the flexibility to adapt to changes in the regulatory climate both at home and abroad. As science evolves, new products are being developed, new risk assessment and new risk management approaches are being developed cooperatively in multiple countries. Joint science reviews are the norm when it comes to evaluating new pest control products. In fact, Mr. Chair, approximately 50% of the work that we do in evaluating brand new pest control products in Canada is done in collaboration with one or more OECD countries such as the United States, Australia, the U.K., etc. This international regulatory cooperation creates efficiencies in getting the most innovative and safest products to market faster, and I think importantly ensures Canada has both access to and contributes to the best science in the world when it comes to pest control product risk assessment. Developments in information management and technology are also facilitating registration, data sharing, monitoring, and stakeholder engagement.
The Pest Control Products Act provides authority to protect health and the environment, to monitor pesticides under real-world conditions, and to take action when the risks are identified. Through the transparency provisions of the act, Health Canada is accountable to all Canadians, who are relying on and counting on a strong pesticide regulatory framework.
ln conclusion, Mr. Chair, we believe that the current PCPA continues to be a solid foundation for the delivery of a pesticide regulatory system that is protective of both the health of Canadians and their environment.