Introduction. This is a report on Health Canada's achievements under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999 (CEPA 1999). According to CEPA 1999, Section 343, the Act must be reviewed every five years by one or both Houses of Parliament. In support of Parliamentary Review, the Minister of the Environment must table a formal submission to Parliament in advance of the Committee's work. As Environment Canada's partner, Health Canada (HC) has requested this report to assist the Minister's in preparing its submission. The quantitative data covered in this report are for the period April 1, 2000 to March 31, 2005. The qualitative data relate to a similar period; however, they also take into consideration some developments shortly before and after.
About CEPA. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 (CEPA 1999) is the cornerstone of environmental protection in Canada. Responsibility for CEPA is shared between Environment Canada (EC) and Health Canada (HC). The Minister of Environment through EC is responsible for all non-human ecosystem issues and overall administration of CEPA. The Minister of Health through HC advises on all human health evaluations. The legislation imposes on each Minister stringent requirements and deadlines for action on toxic substances, consultation, public accountability and transparency.
Scope and Methodology. This report seeks to answer three key questions: (1) What has HC been able to accomplish with respect to its responsibilities under CEPA? (2) What is the ability of HC's operating practices and workflows to meet stakeholder and public expectations and legislative deadlines? (3) How does HC rate on the key concept of Value for Money? In addition, the report suggests the way forward based on opportunities for improvement. In terms of methodology, the findings are based on recent studies of Health Canada's CEPA program and relevant HC organizations.
Summary of Achievements. A considerable amount of work has been completed which is directly relevant to HC's mandate under CEPA, and a number of notable achievements have occurred. For example, a major focus has been on the Domestic Substances List (DSL), as required by law, and Health Canada is confident that categorization of all 23,000 DSL substances will be completed by September 2006. On that basis, a draft maximal list of approximately 1900 substances has been identified for further consideration in DSL categorization. Other achievements include assessments of approximately 3,000 new substances and 700 transitional substances, 122 Food and Drug Act new substances, and 24 extensive air quality assessments. PSL assessments on almost 70 substances and screening health assessments on some 60 substances have also been completed. There were also 51 risk control instruments developed, and 19 risk management strategies prepared. In addition, 109 studies and research reports along with 149 data sets were collected, developed, and analyzed in support of research and surveillance activities. HC CEPA has established and strengthened its presence on the web in recent years, for example web sites are attracting a monthly average of about 2,500 unique visitors for ExSD, 7,500 for AHED and 16,000 for WQHB during 2004/05. These achievements are based on a solid foundation of HC scientific expertise in biological, chemical, and environmental sciences, and in medicine and engineering. These achievements were obtained despite unstable and limited funding as HC focused on meeting its most pressing legislative requirements.
Although HC has demonstrated many achievements, the data presently available did not permit us to assess efficiency or effectiveness. The primary reasons are that: (1) No single HC organization is responsible for collecting, verifying, and reporting on CEPA outputs and expenditures, and so it is difficult to obtain consistent information on achievements and their costs. (2) Formal, mandated assessments of substances against environmental and human health effects is a relatively new activity in Canada and worldwide, and no organization has extensive experience in actually doing so. Within the scope of this report it was not possible to determine how HC's activities compare against expectations or best practices. Management is aware of this and intends to implement the recently developed Results Based Management Accountability Framework (RMAF) to measure and report annually on CEPA results. (3) HC does not have the resources to track human health outcomes related to CEPA activities. HC tends to focus, therefore, on tracking activities and outputs, which are less challenging to measure. (A similar comment could be made about many federal initiatives, as measurement of outcomes and long-term impacts is substantially more difficult than measurement of activities.)
Findings on HC's Operating Practices and Workflows. Over the past five years numerous organizational and operational studies have been undertaken in relation to Health Canada's CEPA mandate, and HC has made efforts to meet the challenges identified. For example, to assist with increasing efficiency in operations and increase program delivery, the Strategic Science and Operations Division was established in 2002. Within the Safe Environments Programme, there have been modest improvements over the past year, for example through ongoing initiatives that include the establishment of a CEPA RMAF, a Results Based Audit initiative, and the initiation and development of a MAF between EC and HC. Individual organizations (e.g., the Water Quality and Health Bureau) have also engaged in internal initiatives to improve workflow.
Even though initiatives have started and improvements are being made, opportunities to better deliver the program exist. First, the Product Safety Programme faces almost exactly the same challenges as was true three years ago, although it is slowly improving (e.g., triage, new HR strategy). Second, many of the efforts have been focused at the bureaux or division level, but not formalized or delivered consistently across all HC organizational units responsible for CEPA. Third, some HC organizations are still not integrated into the overall CEPA planning. Fourth, internal communications are still seen as ad-hoc, mostly conducted vertically and not being sufficiently horizontal across relevant divisions and bureaux. Fifth, the lack of a well-defined strategic planning and resource allocation process makes HR and other resource planning for CEPA challenging. (It should be said that similar issues often arise in other federal initiatives that require horizontal integration across different organizational and bureaucratic structures.)
Overall, HC lacks the resources to engage in active management of joint CEPA issues with Environment Canada.
Results-Based Achievements and Value for Money. Health Canada has made significant achievements in relation to its CEPA responsibilities. It has successfully completed the initial categorization of almost all DSL substances by focusing its limited resources on meeting this legislative requirement. Health Canada has conducted many other relevant activities such as assessments and development of risk control instruments. Many of these results have required very complex activities. Achievements were sometimes made at the expense of other activities, such as management, research, and monitoring and surveillance. Significant investments in these areas are needed to be made for the program to continue to fulfill its obligations under the Act. In addition, as indicated previously, management has identified and is pursuing further opportunities for improvement in order to better measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the CEPA program and the extent to which these achievements are "on track" given the resources available.
Effective Governance. Governance has been effective enough that it has yielded a number of significant achievements; however, there is still a lack of integration among the various HC organizational units delivering CEPA. As discussed under the Organizational and Work Flow Theme, there are several opportunities to strengthen CEPA governance.