Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, and Proposed Legislation

Posted by on Jan 24, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

In what is being called “Investing in Jobs for Canada’s Middle Class,” sweeping regulatory changes were proposed last fall (November 2018) in Ottawa by the Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau.

Proposed Changes by Minister of Finance

As reported on CTV News, “Delivering his speech on the fall economic statement in the House of Commons, Morneau (Minister of Finance) cited global uncertainty tied to ongoing trade disputes and spoke directly to the pressure to match U.S. President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, which he described as aggressive.”

The proposed changes include greater tax incentives for new equipment, investing $800 million over five years in the Strategic Innovation Fund, removing trade barriers to China, and encouraging regulators to consider economic competitiveness when designing and implementing regulations while continuing to protect Canadians’ health and safety, as well as our environment.  See “Fall Economic Statement 2018.”

Competitiveness Considerations

The National Post reports, “As part of the government’s fall economic statement Wednesday, finance minister Bill Morneau promised to review the existing legislation that governs how federal departments and agencies craft regulations for everything the government does, from food safety inspections to approving applications to build pipelines.  He will consider a potential update to that legislation that would effectively require those departments and agencies to include ‘competitiveness considerations’ when they’re drawing up rules.  The current legislation, by comparison, is almost exclusively focused on health, safety and environmental considerations” (emphasis added).

Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau has proposed several changes...

Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau has proposed several changes, including encouraging regulators to consider economic and competitiveness when designing and implementing regulations.

Industry Groups Comment

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce weighed in, again quoting from the National Post, “Perrin Beatty, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, applauded the promised regulatory overhaul, saying it could create more ‘balanced’ guidelines for businesses in the long term.”

Mr. Beatty went on to say, “This is substantive, it’s not window-dressing, and it’s going to have an impact.”

Ben Brunnen, a vice president at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, was quoted in the same article (National Post), and he sounded more cautious. “In the absence of any meaningful details, it’s impossible to know if this is going to make a material difference for business competitiveness.”

What all of this may mean with respect to changes (if any) in policy or how Environment and Climate Change Canada approaches environmental issues remains to be seen.

Ontario Bill 66 Eliminates Toxics Reduction Act

Meanwhile in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has made plenty of “waves” since taking office on June 20, 2018.  One of the recent proposed changes is (among other things) the elimination of the Toxics Reduction Program under Bill 66, “Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018.”

The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks website states the following, “We are proposing changes to the Toxics Reduction Program to remove unnecessary duplication with the federal Chemicals Management Plan program and reduce burden for industry.  We are proposing to no longer require facilities with current toxics reduction plans to review them, and exempt certain facilities from having to report and plan in the future.”

“We also propose to repeal the Toxics Reduction Act on December 31, 2021, by which time, all substances regulated by Ontario will be covered by the federal program.  We are confident in the federal government’s comprehensive Chemicals Management Plan.”

For those reporting under the Toxics Reduction Act, it is assumed, at this point, that June 1st reporting will still be required at least in the short term.

Opposition to Bill 66

There are several individuals and groups weighing in with respect to Bill 66.  Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, wrote, “If dismantling Ontario’s cap-and-trade system, energy efficiency programs and the independent Office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario wasn’t enough, Bill 66 opens up Ontario’s Greenbelt for factory, retail, and residential development, undermines drinking water protection rules, and guts rules that help industry reduce the release of toxic chemicals.”

In an 11-page submission, the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) expressed their opposition to the Bill.  “CELA does not agree with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (‘MECP’) that the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 (“TRA”) is duplicative of requirements under federal law on control of toxic substances and, therefore, does not find persuasive the MECP argument that repealing the TRA will reduce a burden on industry from having to comply with duplicative programs.”

These proposed changes are a reminder that nothing (especially related to governance) is static.  Change with respect to policy, regulations, knowledge of emerging contaminants, etc. require our attention.  Accordingly, we’ll continue to monitor these and other legislative developments with respect to environmental regulatory issues.  In the meantime, if you have questions or require assistance with an environmental issue (permitting, assessment, remediation, etc.), you can reach me at 519-979-7300, Ext. 114