All Canadians want clean air, water, and land. The federal, provincial, and territorial governments share responsibility for environmental management, so it is important that they work together to ensure a consistently high level of environmental quality across Canada.
Environment ministers from the federal, provincial, and territorial governments are all members of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). Meeting as peers, 14 ministers discuss national environmental priorities and determine, through consensus, which issues would benefit from joint action. This unique intergovernmental forum provides an effective means to discuss and take collaborative action on environmental issues of national and international concern without altering the authorities or responsibilities of each jurisdiction.
CCME ministers set national strategies, develop long-term plans, and pool resources to create technical products that can assist them in carrying out their own environmental mandates. A permanent CCME secretariat provides support to ministers, and assists committees of government officials in their ongoing work on CCME priorities.
This national co-operative approach produces:
- National, collective policy commitments (such as the national acid rain strategy, Canada-wide standards for mercury reduction, or the strategy to reduce ozone-depleting substances);
- Public information (such as the report on indicators of climate change);
- Published technical codes and guidelines (such as water quality guidelines, or the code of practice for petroleum storage tanks); and
- Mechanisms for cooperation and joint/collaborative action (such as the environmental assessment agreement, and the Harmonization Accord and its sub-agreements)
Current CCME priorities focus on:
- Air issues: smog, acid rain, hazardous air pollutants, petroleum refineries, and toxic substances in air emissions such as mercury, or dioxins & furans;
- Water and soils: municipal wastewater effluents, environmental quality guidelines and codes of practice, as well as petroleum in soils;
- Waste management: national approaches to electronic products stewardship and hazardous waste management, as well as hazardous waste incineration; and
- Health and environment issues, with emphasis on children’s health.
There are many long-term benefits/results from CCME activities:
- Common approaches to environmental issues across the country;
- Consistently high environmental standards across the country;
- Efficient use of resources, by making use of expertise for the benefit of all jurisdictions; and
- Effective information exchange between jurisdictions.