Chemicals Management Plan top-up: protecting all Canadians from toxic chemicals and pollution

The science is clear: Canada needs to do more to protect people in vulnerable situations from pollution and toxics. The House of Commons Environment and Sustainable Development Committee’s 2016-17 review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) implementation put a spotlight on these issues, but departments lack resources to act on the committee’s recommendations and proposed legislative reforms.

Bill S-5142 proposes to modernize CEPA to better protect people in vulnerable situations and those who are particularly susceptible to harm from toxics and pollution. The bill would also recognize for
the first time in federal law the right to a healthy environment. The Green Budget Coalition recommends that Budget 2023 invest in building science and policy capacity for these important new approaches.

Bill S-5 defines vulnerable population as “a group of individuals within the Canadian population who, due to greater susceptibility or greater exposure, may be at an increased risk of experiencing adverse health effects from exposure to substances.”

Budget 2021 provided $476.7 million over three years to renew the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP). While the Green Budget Coalition welcomed this investment to enable basic functions to continue, additional resources are needed in 2023 for:

  • Identifying and prioritizing prohibition of carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and other chemicals with a high level of concern;
  • Cumulative effects and class assessment;
  • New mechanisms to monitor and manage exposure to toxic chemicals in consumer products, including products imported from countries that do not rigorously regulate chemical inputs;
  • A full review of measures required to protect Indigenous peoples’ rights and nature from the risks of genetic engineering of animals; and
  • Addressing data gaps to identify and protect populations that are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of pollution, including women and children, including:
    • Understanding and reducing risks to Indigenous communities; and
    • Developing and applying a framework to implement the right to a healthy environment, including consideration of environmental justice and the principle of non-regression, as well as data collection.

The Green Budget Coalition also recommends moving the CMP budget to A-base to build and maintain scientific capacity for this important, legally mandated work. While the program was focused on assessing an initial batch of 4,300 “high priority” substances identified through a screening process a decade ago, Health Canada and ECCC must retain capacity to assess new substances and update assessments in light of new science, and to develop and implement risk management measures for the increasing number of substances assessed as toxic under CEPA. The ongoing task of chemicals management requires permanent capacity.

Recommended Investment:

$200 million in 2023 to top-up the Chemicals Management Plan budget. [ECCC, HC]

Recommendation endorsed by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment