The second set of key changes proposed in this bill relates to the modernization of chemicals management. Canada is recognized as a world leader, being the first and only country to have categorized and prioritized for assessment all of the substances that were in commerce in our economy at the time the original CEPA was enacted in 1988. By the end of 2022, the government will have completed the assessments for almost all—98.5%—of the 4,636 substances that were identified as priorities when the chemicals management plan was launched in 2006. This is progress.
Now we need a new process.
Bill S-5 requires the government to consult and to produce a new plan for chemicals management priorities. This will show Canadians a multi-year plan for assessing substances in the future. It would also describe the activities, such as research and monitoring, to better support that effort.
The bill sets out a new regime for substances of highest risk. These include persistent and bioaccumulative substances, as well as certain carcinogens, mutagens and substances that are toxic to reproduction. When considering how to manage such substances, the bill requires that priority be given to prohibiting them. The Senate made improvements to these provisions; in my view, modest changes to the Senate amendments would make this regime even more effective.
I think we can all agree on the importance of acting quickly in assessing and managing those risks. CEPA already prescribes timelines, often referred to as the CEPA “time clock”. The government must propose a risk management instrument for addition to schedule 1 within two years after the substance has been proposed and finalize that instrument within a further 18 months. Bill S-5 proposes to go further and adds a requirement for the government to communicate the timelines for subsequent risk management instruments.
The bill also adds a watch-list as a tool to improve transparency by consolidating a list of substances whose inherent properties are of concern, but whose current use does not pose a risk that needs to be managed. There will be consultation on the criteria for adding and removing substances. This work will begin once the bill is in force.
Continuing with the theme of transparency, note that confidential business information was discussed a great deal. Bill S‑5 includes more requirements to improve transparency. I would, however, insist on the need to maintain the right balance between transparency and protection of Canadian business interests, which the bill delivers.
Finally, the bill now includes substantive requirements to accelerate efforts to replace, reduce and refine animal testing. The three Rs are ordered to reflect that the priority is to replace animal testing, with the aim of eliminating it as soon as feasible and scientifically justified alternative methods are available. The government is committed to promoting non-animal test methods and will engage with stakeholders and experts to provide advice on this issue.
CEPA hasn’t been significantly updated for 20 years. I say again that this is not our final effort to modernize CEPA.
While the legislative reform takes place, the government is undertaking several activities to tackle several issues linked to CEPA.
Over the last year, we held two consultations on labelling. The first sought to determine which measures could improve supply chain transparency. Consultations ended earlier this fall, which led to last month’s publication of a notice of intent for labelling toxic substances in consumer products. The results of both initiatives support a broader strategy, which we will publish in 2023.
The Senate also commented on the transparency of assessments of new living organisms. As such, the Government of Canada launched consultations in October 2022. These consultations will examine how the new substances notification regulations could make the risk assessment and regulatory decision-making process more transparent, while encouraging the development of biotechnology innovations that benefit Canadians.
The Senate made amendments creating a requirement to determine the need for new organisms. This proposed approach would be near impossible to implement.
The results of these consultations will feed into our improvement to the regime for new organisms and our government's approach to labelling. Nevertheless, I understand that these are matters of interest to you, and I will listen to your deliberations to inform the regulatory actions that will follow our consultations. I call on you to maintain the enabling and risk-based nature of the legislation that has made Canada a leader in chemicals management in the world.
Fellow members, I am counting on your support to enact this bill and ensure that the government has all the required tools to better protect all Canadians’ health and environment.
The work doesn’t stop here. Once the bill passes, we will launch regulatory and implementation initiatives, which include developing the implementation framework for the right to a healthy environment, the priority substances plan and regulations on high-risk substances. Furthermore, we will proceed with a review of other potential legislative changes to CEPA to ensure it remains relevant in the context of today’s challenges.
Thank you very much.
I will be pleased to answer your questions.