Upgrading Enforcement of Environmental Laws

A robust regulatory framework and effective enforcement of environmental  laws will be an important foundation for rebuilding Canada’s economy. ECCC is responsible for enforcing federhal laws that protect air, water, land and wildlife: the Canadian Environmental  Protection Act, 1999; pollution-prevention provisions in the Fisheries Act; Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994; Canada Wildlife Act; Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act; and Species at Risk Act; and their regulations.

There has been no significant new investment in environmental enforcement since Budget 2008 — although the number of protected species and places, and pollution prevention regulations has increased significantly over the past decade. An audit of ECCC’s enforcement of CEPA regulations in 2018, by the Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD),  found that the department had not carried out a single inspection in relation to many toxic substance regulations. ECCC’s forward regulatory agenda, which includes 30 new CEPA or Fisheries Act regulations, expanding federally protected wildlife areas and eliminating SARA  listing backlogs, will further stretch existing enforcement capacity.

ECCC is in the final stages of implementing a risk- based enforcement planning framework. ECCC’s enforcement branch is well-positioned to scale up its activities based on analysis of non-compliance risks but lacks funding to do so.

Additional resources are also needed to ensure regular recertification training for all enforcement officers.

Furthermore, enforcement challenges are increasingly sophisticated and require new investigative and intelligence capabilities, as well as additional enforcement officers and training. The CESD  audit found that ECCC had challenges in fulfilling intelligence needs to assist enforcement officers in making informed decisions. Some regions had no dedicated intelligence staff. For example, Ontario had the largest number of regulated businesses but no permanent intelligence staff. The audit underscored that key intelligence information is important to targeting the work of enforcement officers.

Recommended  Investment:
$50 million additional investment annually, ongoing,
[ECCC] to upgrade enforcement of Canada’s pollution prevention and wildlife protection laws.

Lisa Gue – lgue@davidsuzuki.org
Kathleen Cooper – kcooper@cela.ca