The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) is composed of the ministers of environment from the federal government, the ten provinces, and three territories, plus the civil servants who support them (Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, n.d.). The CCME also encourages cooperation between regions. The CCME goal is to work on  “collective action on environmental issues of national and international concern.”  (CCME, n.d.).

The CCME is not a regulator, but it does produce standards, like soil standards which are referenced in regulations.   Specifically they work on:

  • Air
  • Climate Change
  • Water
  • Waste
  • Guidelines

The CCME also sets aspirational goals; for example waste reduction targets.  The aspirational targets have no legal status.  An example of a CCME aspirational statement is this one from 2014 ” Canada is a world leader in waste management.”  Sometimes we need to be careful with aspirational statements as they represent a desire, not necessarily a fact.  The Conference Board of Canada in an undated graphic described Canada’s rank in terms of domestic waste as 17th of 17 countries, with our domestic waste volumes actually increasing instead of decreasing.  The Conference Board of Canada graded Canada a “D” (Conference Board of Canada, n.d.).

Currently the CCME is working on three waste management goals:

  • Zero plastic waste (said in context of single use plastics).  It has been working this initiative since 2019 and has not yet made a specific recommendation for regulation.
  • Aspirational goal of reducing waste.  The target is to reduce domestic waste to “490 kg per person (a 30% reduction) by 2030”.  According to the Conference Board of Canada this would put Canada about par with Norway and still behind Japan (Conference Board of Canada, n.d.).  Perhaps it is not really a world leading performance.
  • Extended producer liability.

Clearly the CCME is not a regulator, and the standards are not regulations, and aspirations have little substance unless backed by regulation.  The standards may become legally enforceable if they are referred to in regulations.  For example, Alberta refers to CCME Soil Standards in its soil criteria.

Possibly the most useful things from the CCME are the chemical standards for soil and water.  They provide a scientifically defendable basis for regulating  contamination.  CCME standards are freely available on the internet.

One of the most recent activities of the CCME is publishing the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (CCME, 2016).

Section Conclusion

The CCME is a leader in producing chemical based standards. The CCME has standards that go a long way to encourage environmental protection minimums across the Canada.  It works well with a philosophy that all Canadians deserve similar protection, no matter where you live in this country.

Aspirational goals must always be considered in context of the question: Is there regulation to back them up?

Learning Questions

  • What would make a CCME standard enforceable in Canada?
  • Is drinking water a CCME standard in Canada?


Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). (n.d.) Home page. Retrieved from  https://www.ccme.ca/en

Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). (2016) Climate Change. Retrieved from https://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/Details/Environment/municipal-waste-generation.aspx

Conference Board of Canada. (2013). Municipal Waste Generation. Retrieved from https://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/Details/Environment/municipal-waste-generation.aspx


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Regulations and the Environment Copyright © 2023 by Tim Taylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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