Interim government response to review of Canadian Environmental Protection Act: part 1

Part 1. Introduction

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) is an important piece of federal environmental protection legislation. It is a legislative tool for preventing pollution in order to protect the environment and human health and thereby contributes to the country's long-term economic competitiveness.

CEPA requires a committee of one or both Houses of Parliament to review the act every five years. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development conducted its review and released its report in May 2007. The Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources is also reviewing the act and plans to issue its report by the end of October 2007.

These reviews provide the opportunity to build on the solid foundation of CEPA. Accountability remains essential: transparency, access to information, and timely public participation are well established as core values in CEPA and in this review process.

CEPA came into force on March 31, 2000 following an extensive Parliamentary review of the first CEPA. CEPA contains significant improvements to protect the environment over the 1988 version of the act. Seven years after it was brought into force, CEPA remains a modern statute, which provides the Government with an extensive array of authorities. During these seven years, the departments of the Environment and Health, which jointly administer the statute, have been using the act in ways that are efficient, effective and coordinated with the efforts under other legislation and jurisdictions. As a result, and as stated in the House of Commons Standing Committee's report, "another drastic overhaul of CEPA is not only unnecessary, but could well be counterproductive."

As the House of Commons Standing Committee's recommendations also identify, however, the ongoing experience with the act shows that there are various instances where fairly modest changes to the act could improve implementation of programs and increase the Government's ability to meet its environmental and human health protection objectives.

This report is an interim response to the report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. It describes the Government's main environmental protection initiatives, namely the Chemicals Management Plan and Turning the Corner: An Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution. These two initiatives provide the policy context and overall objectives for how the Government will use CEPA over the next few years.

This report also provides a preliminary response to each of the Standing Committee's recommendations. It also highlights examples of how the policies and practices being developed to implement the Chemicals Management Plan and Turning the Corner are supportive of several of the Committee's recommendations.

The Government is committed to considering the recommendations of both the House and the Senate Committees. The Government will table a final, consolidated response to both Committee reports after reviewing the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. The final consolidated response will address the recommendations made in the two Committee reports, and may propose various improvements to the act.

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