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Minister Wilkinson Introduces CEPA Amendments & the Government of Canada and FCM a Major Initiative

Published on
April 13, 2021

Today, the Government of Canada made two significant announcements related to energy and the environment. The government tabled new legislation, Bill C-28, which proposes significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protections Act. The government also launched the Community Building Retrofits Initiative in partnership with FCM.

CEPA Amendments

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, William Amos, announced sweeping amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protections Act (CEPA) the first major round of amendments since CEPA was introduced in 1999.

Key proposed changes include:

A Right to a Healthy Environment

An amended Act would enshrine in legislation that all Canadians have the right to a healthy environment and that this right must be taken into account when CEPA is being administered. If the Bill is passed, the government proposes to work on an implementation framework for how this commitment would work at a practical level. The government has committed to extensive consultations on the implementation of this framework.

Protecting Vulnerable Populations

The amended act would also require that the government recognize health impacts to vulnerable populations when administering CEPA. This could include the impact to children, those with serious health conditions, workers and those living in high-pollution areas.

Safer Chemicals

The amended CEPA would stress the importance of shifting to chemicals and substances that are less harmful to the environment. These changes would include the creation of a “watch list” of potentially harmful substances to allow companies and consumers to make informed choices about the products they use. The amended Act would provide for a new process for assessing chemical substances and new rules for research and labeling of chemical products.

This amended act would also include a provision that if a formal request is received for a chemical to be assessed, the Minister would be required to consider and respond to all requests.

It is expected that the government will use this process to move forward on their commitment to ban single-use plastics.

Amending the Food and Drugs Act (FDA)

This amendment would create a new process for reviewing the environmental impact of new drugs under the FDA, removing the require for assessment under both CEPA and the FDA.

This proposed Bill, and the ensuing legislative and regulatory process, will provide considerable opportunity for engagement with government. At 88 pages, there is much to review and many ways that industry might be impacted. With only ten weeks to go before Parliament rises for the summer and the continued possibility of an election in 2021, the path to passing this legislation is steep. However, proposed changes are expected to remain central to election platforms and may be carried forward by the Liberals if reelected.

Community Building Retrofits Initiative

Minister of Infrastructure & Communities Catherine McKenna along with Garth Frizzell, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) announced a $167-million federal investment in FCM’s Green Municipal Fund to support Canadian municipalities and not-for-profit organizations in lowering emissions from existing community buildings such as arenas, pools, libraries and recreation and cultural centres.

The Community Buildings Retrofit Initiative will provide grants and loans to fund a portion of each project and expects to disburse the full funding envelope over the next six years. Funding is part of new commitments announced in Canada’s strengthened climate plan, unveiled in December 2020.

In total, the strengthened climate plan committed to investing $1.5 billion over three years for green and inclusive community buildings through retrofits, repairs, upgrades and new builds, which would contribute to climate objectives.

Federal Engagement

Today’s announcements, especially the tabling of Bill C-28, will have far-reaching impacts. For assistance, please reach out to your Sussex representative directly or to a member of the Federal Government Relations Team.

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