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Richard Aucoin
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Richard Aucoin
2015-01-27 16:32
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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.
Thank you.
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Richard Aucoin
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Richard Aucoin
2015-01-27 17:18
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Well, as I think I indicated in my opening remarks, there are a lot of good provisions—some really good, solid provisions—and obligations in the Pest Control Products Act for us to be transparent and open with Canadians. Not only do we have to consult with Canadians on the data and the science we've used to make our regulatory decisions for new chemicals, but also for older chemicals, when we're looking at them, what we're finding, and how that science influences our decisions.
We also have been really open with, for example, what we are currently looking at in PMRA. What pesticides are being proposed for use in Canada? We have a public registry where you can find that information and ask what PMRA is doing right now and what they are looking at. A lot of information is on there now in terms of us having a compliance and enforcement program. What are we finding? Are there violations of the Pest Control Products Act? What are we doing about those?
As I forgot to mention right at the outset, I think this committee has received a copy of our annual report. That alone is a full disclosure of all our activities through the year, including, for example, our incident reporting program, what we are seeing every year in terms of the nature of the pesticide incidents that are being reported to us. We're very transparent and open in terms of what they were and what some of the actions are that we're taking as a result of those incidents.
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Kenneth V. Georgetti
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Kenneth V. Georgetti
2012-02-27 15:39
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Thank you very much.
By way of opening comment, let me say that the Canadian Labour Congress has a long history of working with trade unions and non-governmental organizations throughout the world. We've managed projects in over 30 countries, many of which were funded by CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency.
The CLC does not agree with the government that partnering with the private sector to fund foreign-aid projects is the best way to improve the lives of the world's poor. It's unconscionable that our government wants to achieve this by making Canadian profit-driven extractive, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and other companies collaborators to foreign aid.
Already some $531 million in 2009 and $336 million in 2010 were spent by CIDA on NGOs and others doing so-called private sector development to support the likes of micro-credit, credit union capacity-building, value-chain developments, and support for small and medium-sized businesses. We have concerns about the facts that these often exceed expenditures of many of CIDA's other categories. In 2010, spending on education, health, environment, and governance were all declining relative to 2009, while private sector development increased. We don't know about 2011 because last year the government stopped reporting its spending on this.
Now CIDA is funding NGOs to implement corporate social responsibility projects--CSR--projects with contributing companies such as Rio Tinto Alcan, IAMGOLD, and Barrick Gold, whose clear mandate is to maximize profits for their shareholders—that's what they do. CIDA is poised to continue along this vein.
Please understand, we don't object to Canadian investments abroad for the purposes of making profit; that's what they do. However, trade unions from throughout the world are involved with multinational companies, and we know how their self-interest can conflict with the public interest. This is what we're worried about. Regrettably, NGOs with good reputation and credibility are being drawn into collaborating, no matter how laudable the results of their work might be. The approach will certainly ease Canadian investors' access to local resources and soothe the waters with communities that have already suffered or would oppose mining and other operations. The whole approach will also invariably reduce their costs of doing business. But a point of contention is about enabling companies to protect their profits back in Canada, companies that are already reaping tremendous benefits from tax breaks right here at home.
We worry about the impacts of Canadian companies competing among themselves and others within a developing country context. Yet Canadian taxpayers have been led to believe that funding these corporate social responsibility projects in connection to large corporations will somehow yield some form of company accountability or corporate responsibility. We don't believe that. We think it's nonsense, frankly. The CSR projects do not in any way implement company accountability principles as understood by the international community dealing with these issues. We're worried that these projects will serve instead to gloss over local conflicts that have already emerged or will arise as a result of any investment project.
The government is well aware of the degree of opposition to Canadian company projects in quite a number of countries. In 2005 this awareness led to a ground-breaking parliamentary report calling for strong norms to deal with corporate misbehaviour, such as environment and human rights violations, which are now on the rise. Instead, the government created a weak-kneed extractive sector CSR counsellor, who's already proved to be ineffective in handling a number of recent complaints, leaving a total vacuum for available tools to ensure company accountability.
The CIDA corporate social responsibility projects cannot be a substitute for corporate accountability. Moreover, it's very misleading to suggest that these CSR projects will do much, if anything, to reduce poverty.
Business leaders have already appeared before this committee, but their testimony raises a number of questions. They may be justified in saying that specific projects would benefit training, work experience, or could result in economic effects for jobs and improved incomes. It's what they're not saying that we think is a problem. Their statements have to be measured against a more complete picture of costs and benefits, both positive and negative. They have to be seen in light of social and environmental costs beyond the lifetime of those projects compared to other scenarios that could yield better scenarios.
Evidence submitted by MiningWatch to this committee convinces me that company operations do far more in the long term to exacerbate income gaps than to reduce poverty. The committee cannot turn a blind eye to these realities. At the core of any analysis about poverty is the question of jobs.
I remind this committee that Canada joined the G-20 and other countries last year to support a decent work agenda put forward by the International Labour Organization. So where's the analysis to show the impacts of company operations on full-time and part-time jobs that will be created or lost, and what is the quality of those jobs, and what are the conditions of the work environment and the human rights in the workplace? What about the livelihood issues for community well-being? What other scenarios for investment or for CIDA expenditures would create more jobs than the paltry few that have been talked about here? I repeat, where is the analysis on all of this?
Witnesses have also argued that company operations contribute to the tax base and thus strengthen the autonomy of local and national governments. There is strong evidence to show that company activities do quite the opposite, and we've provided that to the committee in our formal brief.
In many countries, the very presence of extractive companies in rural areas also jeopardizes the integrity of indigenous communities. I would like to suggest that the committee follow up by encouraging our government to perform an analysis of both the negative and positive impacts of these company operations before venturing further on CSR exercises that blindly support or justify them. The government should also report annually to Parliament detailing the full picture of all aspects of private sector funding.
You should follow through with the commitments to implement the 2011 Busan high-level forum, which emphasizes the importance of ensuring strong country ownership of development, accountability, and of course transparency through a new global partnership for effective development.
You should establish a Canadian legal framework for private sector accountability based on internationally agreed ILO standards, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines on multinational enterprises, and the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights.
The government should be guided by the outcomes of the Canadian Westray mining disaster in instituting criminal penalties for egregious activities abroad.
These corporate accountability measurements are important for stemming any drive to lower the occupational and other standards due to competition.
Lastly, we'd like to say that you should promote the G-20 commitments to implement the ILO decent work agenda as a direct means for eradicating poverty in the world.
Thank you.
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Suzanne Legault
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Suzanne Legault
2011-09-22 8:50
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Good morning, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
Good morning to all the members.
Good morning. I'm very pleased to appear before you today as the committee starts its work on access to information, privacy, and ethics in this 41st Parliament.
You will find in the package that was distributed to you a number of documents that provide more information about my mandate, the accomplishments and priorities of my office, as well as a report and action plan related to a recent audit of our investigative processes. My opening remarks, unfortunately, are not finished being translated, so we will bring them to the committee a little bit later this afternoon.
Clearly this committee plays a crucial role in holding the government to account. You're vested with the responsibility of ensuring that the Canadian government's transparency agenda fulfills Canadians' needs and expectations for timely disclosure of valuable public sector information. Indeed, timely access to public sector information drives democracy and citizen engagement.
In an era of highly developed and ever-evolving information in communication technologies, it is the fluidity of public sector information that is key to competitiveness and socio-economic growth. That being said, it's important to remember that not all government information should be disclosed. As the Supreme Court of Canada stated last year:
Access to information in the hands of public institutions can increase transparency in government, contribute to an informed public, and enhance an open and democratic society. Some information in the hands of those institutions is, however, entitled to protection in order to prevent the impairment of those very principles and promote good governance.
It's a very delicate balancing act.
One of my responsibilities as Information Commissioner of Canada is to ensure that this right balance is struck. My annual report, tabled in June 2011, highlights the activities of my office in this endeavour.
The core of my mandate is to investigate complaints under the Access to Information Act. I am proud to report that we completed more than 2,000 cases for a second consecutive year.
We reduced by 8% the average time needed to complete investigations, and we further decreased our inventory at year-end by 11%. This success is due to a combination of efficiency gains, agile case management and collaboration with institutions. Overall, we can count on institutions' collaboration in resolving issues and implementing recommendations.
However, to deal with more complicated problems of non-compliance, I issued last year seven reports of findings with formal recommendations to heads of institutions. After the reports had been issued, three of these cases were ultimately resolved and the recommendations implemented. The four remaining cases are now before the courts.
I bring forward or intervene in legal proceedings when important principles of access legislation must be defended or clarified. This is the case with proceedings involving the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Canada Post Corporation.
To maximize compliance with the act, we must address the root causes of widespread or recurrent issues that adversely impact the timeliness and quantity of information disclosed. I take a systemic approach to assessing and investigating institutions' compliance. My goal is always to provide institutions, central agencies, and Parliament a thorough, fact-based diagnostic with specific and tailored solutions to guide efforts for improvements.
Last year, we implemented year two of our three-year plan for report cards and systemic investigations. The exercise included the assessment of a group of crown corporations and agents of Parliament that had recently come under the act. We followed up with 13 institutions that had performed poorly in previous assessments. Based on the data collected, we also launched a systemic investigation into the sources of delays, particularly mandatory consultations.
We are also investigating allegations of interference with the access to information process at Public Works and Government Services Canada.
In the current context of fiscal restraint, all institutions must seek more efficient ways to serve Canadians. This is why, upon taking office, I undertook a strategic planning process with my staff and key stakeholders to determine priorities and chart a roadmap for the first years of my term.
This plan will help us achieve significant outcomes in three key areas: exemplary service delivery; a well-governed workplace of choice; and a leading access to information regime.
To provide exemplary service, we will continue to refine our case management strategies while developing a comprehensive talent management framework. In this endeavour, we will build on the results from the audit of our investigative processes.
Mr. Chair, that is what I did last year as part of our internal auditing, in the wake of the incidents within the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
I commissioned an audit of my investigative function at the OIC, and I made sure that the criteria that the OAG had used to do its audit of the Integrity Commissioner's office was incorporated into the audit we conducted.
This morning, as part of the documents before you, I've tabled the results of this audit, which basically show that our investigative function conforms with our legislation. It made some recommendations, which we plan to incorporate into our action plan this fall.
Mr. Chairman, you can count on my continued support and advice to foster a leading access regime. I applaud the Canadian government for its commitment in the Speech from the Throne to ensuring that citizens, the private sector, and other partners have improved access to the workings of government through open data, open information, and open dialogue.
Minister Clement has taken the helm of the open government initiative, which notably includes an open information component that promises to take access to information closer to the digital age. I also welcome Minister Baird's commitment this week to having Canada join the multinational open government partnership. We will follow these government initiatives with great interest. In my view, they are key to embedding a culture of openness in federal institutions.
However, an open government initiative and a commitment to transparency must include a willingness to improve the efficiency of our access to information regime. In this area much work remains to be done. As reflected in Treasury Board statistics, over the past ten years there has been a steady decline in the timeliness and disclosure of information by federal institutions.
Current needs and expectations of Canadians require that we reverse this declining trend in timeliness and disclosure. I've committed to using all the powers and tools at my disposal to influence this outcome, starting with effective and timely investigations of complaints.
Mr. Chair, next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the Access to Information Act. I submit that the way forward must include the review and modernization of the act to bring our regime up to par with the most progressive international models. In preparation for this event, I have started an in-depth review of international benchmarking of our legislation to be in a position to advise Parliament of necessary amendments to the act.
To provide information about our work, I will be hosting the International Conference of Information Commissioners, which will be held in Canada for the first time, in collaboration with the Canadian Bar Association from October 3 to 5.
This forum will provide an excellent opportunity for commissioners, practitioners and advocates to exchange ideas for the advancement of access to information principles.
I am very excited to host this important event here in Ottawa. I invite you all to join the discussions, as we have an agreement with the Canadian Bar Association to allow all the committee members to attend the conference and some of the presentations.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the hard work and unwavering dedication of my staff, to whom I owe much of our accomplishments.
I urge this committee to continue to advocate for more open government, for more timely and greater access to information.
Mr. Chair, I am now ready to answer any questions the members may have.
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