Regulatory responsibilities and processes


This information from the Minister’s transition binder was current as of November 2019. We don’t update this page as it is part of the historical record.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is one of the federal government’s most active regulators. The Department’s regulatory portfolio addresses such issues as toxic chemicals, air pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions, effluent, migratory birds and species at risk.

The federal regulatory process is governed by legal and policy frameworks. The Statutory Instruments Act provides the main legal framework. All statutory orders and regulations are subject to the requirements of the Statutory Instruments Act. The Cabinet Directive on Regulation sets out expectations and requirements in the development, management, and review of federal regulations.

In order to ensure that regulations result in the greatest overall benefits to current and future generations, federal regulations are guided by the following four principles:

The development of regulations within ECCC typically involves policy approval (either by the Minister or Cabinet, depending on the issue), consultations with interested parties throughout the regulatory development cycle (including with Indigenous peoples), preparation of drafting instructions, economic analysis, enforcement advice, legal advice, and drafting of the actual text of the regulation. Publication of proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part I, provides a formal opportunity for Canadians to provide input on proposed regulatory text. Final regulations are published in the Canada Gazette, Part II.Along with officials within the Department, other parties within Government are involved in the development and approval of regulations.

The timeframe for developing a regulation is on average 18 to 24 months, but can vary considerably. The duration of consultations is one of the main factors affecting regulatory development timelines.

ECCC’s regulatory activities include

Issuing orders
Issues orders to formalize decisions made by the Minister or the Governor in Council to update statutory lists based on the results of scientific assessments. Each year, for example, the Minister typically receives numerous assessments of toxic substances, leading to the need to decide, in conjunction with the Minister of Health, whether or not to recommend that the GiC add the substance to the List of Toxic Substances (Schedule 1 of CEPA) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Similarly, the Minister typically receives numerous assessments of the status of wildlife species, leading to a decision about whether or not to recommend adding the species to the List of Species at Risk under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). While the decision to recommend listing is discretionary, in both cases addition of the substance or the wildlife species triggers obligations to take action to mitigate the risk identified by the scientific assessment.

Amending existing regulations

Amending existing regulations to enhance their effectiveness. For example, the Minister may decide to amend a regulation to: strengthen its performance requirements; require the use of a more current test method; allow for use of new technologies or practices; expand the scope of application to include sources not previously addressed, or relax regulatory requirements where there is no longer a bona fide need for it, etc.

Developing new regulations

Developing new regulations to manage environmental or conservation risks where the Minister determines that regulatory intervention is required. Over the past 10 years the total number and complexity of regulations and equivalentsFootnote 1  for which ECCC is responsible has doubled. The annual output of regulatory initiatives has also increased significantly and the trend is likely to continue.

Regulatory agenda

ECCC administers or shares responsibility for some 30 Acts and approximately 80 regulations or equivalents, addressing issues as diverse as pollution prevention, weather modification, wildlife protection, and emergency management. A wide range of sectors are covered by existing ECCC regulations, including federal departments (storage tanks), municipalities (wastewater), importers/ exporters, consumer and commercial products and many industrial sectors. Vehicles and engines are a key focus of current GHG and air pollutants regulations. Regulations also impact hundreds of thousands of individuals who partake in regulated activities such as migratory game bird hunting, enter into any of ECCC’s 146 protected areas or are engaged in activities that may conflict with the survival of species at risk domestically or in international trade.

Posted in April 2019, the Department’s Forward Regulatory Plan for 2019–2021 proposed 92 regulatory initiatives, including new regulations, amendments to existing regulations, consolidations, and repeals and reflect existing policies as of 2019. While some regulatory work is legislatively mandated, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Cabinet have the latitude to shape the regulatory agenda, both in the content and the pace of initiatives. All regulatory initiatives are conducted at the direction of the Minister, who has broad authority under the various departmental statutes to determine the overall focus of regulatory programs, and to make decisions about whether or not to intervene, the choice of instrument, and the nature of the regulatory obligation to impose.

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