Canada: Pénalités administratives monétaires en vigueur pour le Programme de plafonnement et d'échange de l'Ontario

Depuis le 1er janvier 2018, le Règlement de l'Ontario 540/17 : Pénalités administratives (le « Règlement sur les PA ») a renforcé le cadre d'application de la majeure partie des dispositions du Programme de plafonnement et d'échange de plusieurs milliards de dollars de l'Ontario. Le but avoué de ce nouveau régime est d'assurer la conformité à la Loi de 2016 sur l'atténuation du changement climatique et une économie sobre en carbone (la « Loi ») et d'empêcher les contrevenants de bénéficier d'un avantage économique.

Les pénalités administratives (les « PA ») constituent un outil de conformité distinct qui se situe entre un avertissement écrit et la poursuite judiciaire, bien que ses conséquences financières ne soient pas négligeables. Les PA sont imposées par des autorités gouvernementales, sans qu'une action en justice soit nécessaire et que les contrevenants puissent les éviter en démontrant qu'ils ont exercé une diligence raisonnable. Les PA créent un régime de responsabilité absolue sans faute pour la plupart des contraventions aux termes du Programme de plafonnement et d'échange. La PA totale maximale prévue par la Loi est de 1 million de dollars.

L'Annexe 1 du Règlement sur les PA comporte la liste des contraventions auxquelles le régime des pénalités administratives s'applique. En voici des exemples :

Tout manquement à des dispositions non visées par le régime des PA peut également constituer une infraction. À noter que l'imposition d'une PA à un contrevenant n'empêche pas une poursuite contre celui-ci pour la même contravention.

L'ordonnance qui vise le paiement d'une PA aux termes du Programme de plafonnement et d'échange ne peut être prise que conformément à un processus comportant plusieurs étapes. À la réception d'un avis indiquant l'intention du directeur du ministère de l'Environnement et de l'Action en matière de changement climatique de prendre une ordonnance, le destinataire a 15 jours pour fournir au directeur un complément d'information. C'est la seule occasion qu'aura le destinataire de lui communiquer des renseignements concernant les circonstances pertinentes de sa non-conformité. C'est également sa seule chance de plaider sa cause en faveur d'une pénalité réduite avant que l'ordonnance ne soit prise.

Le calcul de la pénalité définitive comporte plusieurs étapes et considérations, plus amplement expliquées dans la Directive pour la mise en Suvre des pénalités administratives en vertu de la Loi de 2016 sur l'atténuation du changement climatique et sur une économie sobre en carbone (la « Directive »), document de politique publié pour commentaires dans le Registre environnemental jusqu'au 16 février 2018.

La Directive expose les facteurs d'augmentation ou de réduction des pénalités applicables. La pénalité de base peut être multipliée par la durée de la contravention et alourdie en raison de répercussions sur le Programme de plafonnement et d'échange, du caractère délibéré de la contravention ou de condamnations antérieures aux termes de la Loi ou du Règlement sur la déclaration, entre autres facteurs. Au nombre des facteurs qui favorisent une réduction figurent les actions préalablement entreprises pour prévenir la contravention et les mesures de correction appliquées. Les PA peuvent être imposées jusqu'à un an après le moment où la contravention a eu lieu ou, le cas échéant, un an après la date à laquelle le gouvernement provincial en a été informé.

Il est possible de faire appel d'une ordonnance de paiement de PA devant le Tribunal de l'environnement. Celui-ci est habilité à confirmer, modifier ou révoquer l'ordonnance, mais ne peut en modifier le montant que s'il le juge déraisonnable.

Programme de plafonnement et d'échange de l'Ontario

L'instauration de PA pour les contraventions à la Loi fait partie du Programme de plafonnement et d'échange de l'Ontario. Le Programme inclut désormais la Loi de 2016 sur l'atténuation du changement climatique et une économie sobre en carbone, entrée en vigueur en janvier 2017, de même que le Règlement 144/16 : Le Programme de plafonnement et d'échange, qui précise le système d'allocation et les opérations relatives aux quotas d'émission, ainsi que les plafonds applicables d'un bout à l'autre de la province à chaque période de conformité. Le Règlement sur la déclaration précise les exigences en matière de rapport et les modes de calcul d'émissions, généralement applicables aux installations qui émettent plus de 10 000 tonnes d'équivalent CO2 par année. Les plus récents règlements sont le Règlement sur les crédits de compensation de l'Ontario et le Règlement sur les pénalités administratives.

Au moment où le Programme de plafonnement et d'échange de l'Ontario entre dans sa deuxième année, et dans sa première en tant que marché lié à ceux du Québec et de la Californie, tous les participants doivent se familiariser avec ses exigences afin de s'assurer de leur conformité et d'éviter de recevoir un avis d'intention concernant la prise d'une ordonnance de paiement de PA.

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