Annual Meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment

NEWS RELEASE – ENVIRONMENTAL HARMONIZATION ACCORD APPROVED BY TWELVE JURISDICTIONS

ST. JOHN'S, January 29, 1998 -- The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment - with the exception of Quebec - today signed an accord designed to lead to improved cooperation and better environmental protection across Canada.

The Canada-Wide Accord on Environmental Harmonization envisions governments working in partnership to achieve the highest level of environmental quality for all Canadians. Under the accord, each government will retain its existing authorities but will use them in a coordinated manner to achieve enhanced environmental results. Each government will undertake clearly defined responsibility for environmental performance and will report publicly on its results.

The ministers of Canada, nine provinces and the territories also signed sub-agreements dealing with environmental assessment, inspection activities, and development of Canada-wide standards in areas such as air, water and soil quality.

Quebec indicated it still requires certain conditions to be met before it signs the accord and sub-agreements. Among them, Quebec would like to see Parliament adopt amendments to federal legislation that recognize the need to reduce overlap and duplication between jurisdictions.

Today's approval comes after public consultation on all components of the harmonization accord and in particular, on environmental assessment and a list of potential issues to be developed into Canada-wide standards. To ensure results are achieved quickly, ministers also approved a workplan that includes development of Canada-wide standards on particulate matter, ground level ozone, benzene, mercury, dioxins and furans, and on petroleum hydrocarbons in soil. These standards will be develop in consultation with stakeholders.

The council directed officials to develop further sub-agreements in the areas of enforcement, environmental monitoring and reporting, research and development, and environmental emergencies. They also directed officials to further elaborate, in an annex to be added to the accord, strategies to ensure stakeholder participation, involvement with Aboriginal people, and public accountability.

CCME President Oliver Langdon, Minister of Environment and Labour for Newfoundland and Labrador, says the harmonization agreements promote governments working together, in partnership with stakeholders, and taking complementary action to protect the environment. "The accord has been several years in the making but taking the time to do it right has been worthwhile. The accord will help governments work together more effectively and efficiently so that all our citizens may enjoy a clean environment no matter where they live in Canada." He noted the accord will be reviewed in two years to ensure it is achieving its goals.

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Note to editors: A Guide to the Canada-wide Accord on Environmental Harmonization is attached.

For further information:
Liseanne Forand
CCME Director General
phone (204) 948-2120