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In developing this Minority Report, the Official Opposition has reflected on the May 1999 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development which dealt with a number of issues relating to identifying, managing, an reducing pesticide risks. We have also considered the submissions of the many stakeholders who have appeared before the Committee. Although Canada's risk management strategies are among the most advanced in the western world, all stakeholders recognize there is room for improving the transparency, efficiency and accountability in our pesticides management system. Many of these stakeholders have provided the Committee with excellent recommendations for achieving these important goals. The Official Opposition's objectives within this Minority Report are to promote a balanced approach toward dealing with issues relating to the management and regulation of pest control products, and within this, to offer recommendations for how the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) can improve on fulfilling its mandate to protect human health and the environment.

Weighing the Necessity and Value of Pesticides: What Good Do They Do?

Before we can properly evaluate the effectiveness of pest control products, or a regulatory body such as the PMRA that oversees the registration and use of such products, we ought to first consider their necessity. Is there a need for such products - whether chemically or biotechnologically based - to exist in the first place? In answering this question, it is important to first understand the pest management challenges facing growers and property owners. It is also essential to understand the rigorous science behind pest control product development; in particular the methods and practices employed to make health and safety the first priority in determining how pest control products should be used.

In fact, pest control products and technologies confer many important benefits to Canadians growers and homeowners. Crop protection products prevent crops and lands from being ravaged by insect or fungi infestations, thus minimizing the risk of related and disease or damage, and allowing essential food groups to be harvested for consumption in Canada or for export abroad. In so doing, these products help to keep one of Canada's largest export sectors competitive internationally. Pest control products also increase the esthetic value of lands, whether on an individual's private property or a public golf course, by keeping vegetation and turf vibrant and healthy. For a majority of Canadians, pest control products have become a necessary part of life.

The Committee Report Lacks Balance

Regrettably, the Report lacks balance and does very little to promote partnership and understanding between stakeholders. The Report also fails to recognize the tremendous efforts and successes achieved by manufacturers and users of pest control products to make those products as safe to human health and the environment, as they are effective in controlling pests and protecting crops. The Report also strayed from its mandate to examine the performance of the PMRA. The Environment Commissioner's criticisms of the PMRA included concern over inefficiencies in its regulatory operations: timeline delays within re-evaluation activities, a lack of information sharing, and lack of co-operation with industry.


The Precautionary Principle

The Official Opposition believes the responsibility for risk management must be shared between the PMRA and industry, and therefore, that it is essential that industry and other stakeholders agree on the principles guiding risk management. Further, as the government looks to modernizing its risk management approach across a number of products and departmental jurisdictions industry, other stakeholders and the public must be clear on how risk management is being applied to specific product approvals. Risk management must include properly established ground rules for the use of the precautionary principle.

To accomplish clear direction for the use of the precautionary principle, there must be agreement on which definition is in use. For example, CEPA '99 offers the following language to guide the use of the precautionary principle.

Whereas the Government of Canada is committed to implementing the precautionary principle that, where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation. Source: CEPA '99, Preamble

Pesticide Use in Urban Settings

The use of pesticides in non-agricultural settings has become a subject of considerable controversy, and unfortunately the issues and arguments within this debate have polarized many stakeholders.

The Official Opposition regrets that the Committee Report has done very little to recognize the importance of the products in non-agricultural sectors, and the role the products play in controlling weeds, insects, fungal and other diseases. The benefit of pesticides lies in their ability to manage a pest (weed, insect or disease) that becomes out of control and affects the health of citizens, pets and plants, and threatens the quality of homes, lawns, schools and businesses.

The Committee Report has done little to further the understanding of the need for pesticides in urban environments. Pesticides are important to allergy sufferers in alleviating the discomforts associated with weeds, pollen and moulds. Most homeowners and communities take great pride in their properties, and pesticides are one tool to create healthy environments. Gardening is now the number one hobby of North Americans over the age of 35, and pesticides are critical to protecting grass, plants, trees and ornamentals from disease. Statistics show that injury rates to sports participants are higher when games are played on poorly maintained sports surfaces. Over 40% of ankle and foot injuries to school athletes were attributable to poorly maintained field conditions, and pesticides play an important role in maintaining quality turf.

Managing golf courses is another challenge and an example of the importance of the products. Turfgrass disease can be a significant problem on golf course tees and greens, and without the use of fungicides, certain fungal diseases can kill acres of grass overnight and shut down a golf course. While the Official Opposition is supportive of developing and using proven alternatives in urban environments, we do not believe that a moratorium on pest control products should be put in place before there is a substantial body of conclusive scientific evidence that unequivocally links such products to human disease or ill health. Such a drastic action could put Canadians at risk, and create an unhealthy environment with weeds, insects and disease going unchecked. A moratorium fails to recognize the value and importance of pest control products, and clearly reflects a lack of appreciation and understanding of pest management challenges in Canada.

The Official Opposition believes that proven, sound science, domestically and internationally, should continue to be the cornerstone for debate. As the public gains greater knowledge and acceptance of this science, many fears will be relieved, and the debate that emerges will lead to the development of public policy that is balanced and reasoned.

The Official Opposition encourages a national pest management education program with industry that will further the knowledge of Canadians surrounding pest management challenges and the tools to deal with them.

The Need for Accountability and Transparency in the Regulatory System

While Canada's risk management strategies are leading the world in many respects, there is opportunity for the development of even better methods of assessing the risks that toxic substances may present to people, animals, and the environment. The Official Opposition has found stakeholders eager to work with government to ensure these improvements in risk management practices and processes are implemented in Canada. If the PMRA clarifies for stakeholders, parliament and the general public the principles and the steps taken to implement a risk management decision process, and makes this process more transparent, such action would go a long way toward enhancing public confidence, and accountability in the regulatory system.

Every effort should be made to align Canada's risk management practices with those of our trading partners and through Canada's membership in organizations such as the OECD.

The Need for a Co-ordinated Effort Between Government Departments and the PMRA

The Environment Commissioner expressed serious concern over the credibility gap that exists between talk and action in the federal government's environmental agenda. Federal departments are not working co-operatively on environmental issues. The lack of co-operation in interdepartmental information sharing is a systemic and chronic problem that only reflects the mismanagement malaise that has persisted under the Liberal government.

The Official Opposition believes that a clear understanding of environmental regulation and research responsibilities between federal and provincial governments must be achieved, together with co-operation from the private sector, to identify the best way to achieve harmonized environmental objectives. The Official Opposition believes the single agency model of the PMRA provides for greater accountability and efficiency in pesticide regulation. Where necessary, we support redesigning a proper structure for research and information sharing that ensures the system is both efficient and cost effective.

Clarifying Authority Regarding Pesticides between other Federal Legislation

The Official Opposition rejects the Committee's view that new legislation is needed. We suggest that where necessary, existing legislation should be changed or strengthened to reflect changes within the industry. On this subject, the Official Opposition views with caution the recommendation made by the Committee that a "new Act authorize the exchange of confidential information, including trade secrets and confidential business information, between federal institutions...," insofar as such a recommendation creates the potential for intrusion into the area of intellectual property rights, or a violation of fundamental individual and corporate freedoms. A more thorough investigation of these issues is necessary before adopting this recommendation.

The Official Opposition believes that it is appropriate that legislation relating to pesticides in Canada be covered solely by the Pest Control Products Act, or eventually under one Act. We support efforts to clarify conflicts in existing legislation in a way that resolves those conflicts in a timely manner, and with the greatest degree of rationalization.


The Issues of Risk Management and Re-evaluation

The Official Opposition believes it is inappropriate for the PMRA to be transferring new product evaluation resources toward re-evaluation activities. New product registrations should not be delayed by re-evaluation activities because new products tend to be safer and more environmentally sound. The efficiency of the PMRA's registration operations has a direct impact on Canada's ability to remain competitive internationally. Canada's agriculture producers risk losing their competitive advantage when new product evaluations are delayed. The Issue of Harmonization Within an Era of Globalization

The Official Opposition is very supportive of re-evaluation where scientific evidence points to new risk and where it does not result in the duplication of the work conducted by other OECD countries. While we believe that Canada should lead the re-evaluation process when the re-evaluation relates to a Canada-specific situation, opportunities to accept OECD decisions or to co-ordinate re-evaluation activity among other industrialized countries with regulatory systems similar to the Canadian system should be fully utilized. Given that fully 50% of Canada's agricultural production is exported to the United States, priority effort must be made to align re-evaluation activities with those of the U.S.

The PMRA should step up work with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to harmonize data requirements with NAFTA partners and those of other OECD countries. In doing this, the PMRA could eliminate duplicate equivalent testing being done in other jurisdictions, streamline new product registrations even as re-evaluations are being conducted, and confer a greater health benefit to Canadians and the environment. To this end, the Official Opposition believes the PMRA must place solutions for managing pesticides in Canada within a global context, thus ensuring Canada remains competitive.


Building on Voluntary Initiatives

The Official Opposition agrees with the Environment Commissioner's recommendation that voluntary programs should be evaluated for their contribution "toward ... the objectives of pollution prevention and life cycle management." Industry-led initiatives such as the Crop Protection Institute's StewardshipFirst is an example of a program that meets the Commissioner's test of contributing to pollution prevention and life cycle management, and promotes a healthy environment.

StewardshipFirst is a seven point program that focuses on: manufacturing and marketing code, warehousing standards, personnel certification, grower safety, container management and obsolete product management. The Official Opposition supports such initiatives, and notes that this initiative has so far enjoyed considerable success. This is yet another indicator that industry takes seriously its responsibilities and obligations with respect to health and safety for humans and the environment. As Mr. Lorne Hepworth, President of the CPI states concerning the Institutes's StewardshipFirst program, "'s more than a set of codes and standards, it is an ethic that influences our actions." The Official Opposition urges the PMRA to do more to build on initiatives such as these to build stronger partnerships with all stakeholders.

Establishing a Sales Database

The PMRA, as a member of a national working group, must meet its commitment to establish a national database of pesticide sales to monitor use of pesticides and the effectiveness of risk reduction activities. While the Official Opposition fully supports the concept of a sales database in principle, we believe that aggregate use, rather than aggregate sales, would more accurately measure the levels of pesticide risk.


Recommendation: Clarifying application of the Precautionary Principle

1) That the Rio definition of the precautionary principle as defined in CEPA '99, be accepted as the standard principle within risk management strategies, and that the application of this principle be clarified for all stakeholders.

Recommendations: Risk management, Accountability and Transparency

2) That the PMRA make its risk management decision process public, fostering greater transparency and accountability.

3) That the PMRA more proactively consult key stakeholders, including registrants, on all risk management principles guiding regulatory activity, and address the public's risk perception.

Recommendations: Co-ordinated Action Between PMRA and Federal Departments

4) That the infrastructures for research and information sharing among and between federal departments be re-evaluated and re-designed, where necessary, to provide for greater co-ordination among those departments concerned with regulation, risk assessment and research into the environmental impacts of products.

5) That the PMRA be directed to work with other federal departments, including the departments of Environment, Agriculture and Agri-food, Fisheries and Oceans, as well as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to clarify potential conflicts in current legislation.

6) That federal legislation be amended in such a way as to designate sole responsibility to the PMRA for risk assessment.

7) That all federal-provincial legislation be clarified in such a way that any conflicts in existing legislation are resolved in a timely manner, and with the greatest degree of rationalization.

Recommendations: Role of PMRA in Achieving Harmonization Within Era of Globalization

8) That the PMRA establish priorities for re-evaluation in collaboration with other OECD countries, with particular emphasis on the United States.

9) That the PMRA be directed not to fund re-evaluation activities by shifting resources away from new product evaluations.

10) That the PMRA work with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to accelerate efforts towards harmonization with NAFTA partners, and continue to work with OECD member countries toward globally accepted requirements for pesticide regulation and the mutual acceptance of data.

Recommendations: The PMRA Should Build on Voluntary Partnerships

11) That the PMRA and industry continue efforts to complete current pilot projects for the collection of sales data as a foundation for evaluating the best indicators of pesticide use.

12) That the PMRA is encouraged to explore pesticide alternative options, including continued integrated pest management development, to achieve the objectives of monitoring pesticide usage and gauging the effectiveness of risk education activities.

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