The Ontario Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 (TRA) provided cost-effective benefits that were distinct and broader in scope than the federal Chemicals Management Plan under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). The TRA had (a yet unrealized) potential to make large reductions in toxic discharges over time, particularly if more of its provisions were brought into force. By requiring industry to prepare toxics reduction plans, Ontario’s TRA has been encouraging industry to prevent the release of carcinogens and toxins to Ontario’s waters, airsheds and the Great Lakes. The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Planning (MECP) 2017 annual report on the Toxics Reduction Program created under the TRA suggests that across all regulated facilities there has been a 3% decrease between 2015 and 2016 in the quantities of carcinogens released to the environment and the Great Lakes.
Despite this, Ontario proposed on December 6, 2018 to repeal the TRA by the end of 2021. The MECP’s rationale for the proposed repeal is that: “This will remove unnecessary duplication with the federal Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) under CEPA and reduce burden for industry by not having to comply with duplicative programs.”
However, Ontario’s proposed repeal of the TRA fails to recognize that the NPRI reporting requirements under s. 46 of CEPA focus on the obligation to report on the release, but not the use or the creation, of toxic substances. Ontario’s TRA focuses on the release, use and creation of toxic substances, and represents a distinct, and crucial, additional legal authority. MECP carried out a simple cost-benefit analysis in conjunction with the MEDJCT to justify the cuts. No analysis appears to have been undertaken of the avoided costs and benefits related to the health and environmental impacts of ongoing air and water pollution; health and safety improvements in communities and workplaces; and reduced enforcement costs for MECP.