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Canada’s Chemical Management Plan

When Prime Minister Harper heads to Davos Switzerland, he will deliver a keynote speech to the World Economic Forum on the importance of capitalism for global prosperity. But he will make the point that capitalism must be tempered with sound regulation in order to provide checks and balances on unbridled capitalist urges. You have to wonder about what he and his speech writers are thinking about in the Canadian context. Is he thinking about our woefully inconsistent foreign ownership regulatory structure? Is he thinking about our ineffective and inconsistent climate change regulatory structure? Is he thinking about our successful regulation of financial institutions?

He certainly might be thinking of the regulation of financial institutions. But, he could also be thinking about the Conservative government’s excellent focus on chemicals management and the broader and related regulatory initiatives related to imported and unsafe consumer products.

These product-based successes are sleepers insofar as most people don’t recognize the successes achieved. But successes they are! The CMP is an ambitious program to catalogue, classify and regulate where necessary over 23,000 chemical substances in commerce in Canada. While this program started during Liberal Administrations, it has gathered steam over the last 4 or 5 years. The plan has been refined and improved and we now have hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals assessed and along the path of more effective management and control.

A key elements of success to the CMP is the government’s commitment to it. Unlike previous governments, the PM has made it clear that he is fully behind the CMP and will not accept or tolerate lobbying that derails the overall objectives of the program. Additionally, government officials are now focused on effective management of products and partnerships with industry to achieve these goals. We can contrast this with the previous government which seemed far more preoccupied with placing products on lists and setting up complex regulatory programs without industry cooperation. As a result, industries affected mostly have bought in to the process and the outcomes and they are investing in more effective product and environmental management. And this is costing the taxpayer very little.

So when the PM talks about regulatory boundaries in his Davos speech, he might just be thinking of the CMP. It would make sense.

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