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Home :   Our Work :   Air :   Air Quality Management System

Air Quality Management System

  • Context
  • Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS)
  • Air Zones
  • Airsheds
  • Base-level Industrial Emissions Requirements (BLIERs)
  • Mobile Sources
  • Monitoring and Reporting
  • Stakeholder Engagement

  • Context

    The Air Quality Management System (AQMS) is a comprehensive approach for improving air quality in Canada and is the product of unprecedented collaboration by the federal, provincial and territorial governments and stakeholders. It includes:

    • New Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) to set the bar for outdoor air quality management across the country

    • A framework for air zone air management within provinces and territories that enables action tailored to specific sources of air emissions in a given area

    • Regional airsheds that facilitate coordinated action where air pollution crosses a border

    • Industrial emission requirements that set a base level of performance for major industries in Canada

    • Improved intergovernmental collaboration to reduce emissions from the transportation sector

    On October 11, 2012, jurisdictions, with the exception of Québec, agreed to begin implementing the Air Quality Management System. Federal, provincial and territorial governments all have roles and responsibilities in the implementation of the system. Although Québec supports the general objectives of AQMS, it will not implement the System since it includes federal industrial emission requirements that duplicate Québec's Clean Air Regulation. However, Québec will collaborate with jurisdictions on developing other elements of the system, notably air zones and airsheds.

    Graphic representation of AQMS elements 

    AQMS Questions and Answers

    Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS)

    Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) will be established as objectives under Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999, and will replace existing Canada-wide air standards. Standards for fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone have been developed and were published to Canada Gazette in May 2013. Work has begun to assess the health and environmental impacts of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).

    Air Zones

    Air zones are a place-based approach to manage local air quality. Provinces and territories will delineate and manage air zones within their boundaries with the goal to drive continuous improvements in air quality and to prevent the CAAQS from being exceeded. Air management will be guided by an Air Zone Management Framework to ensure proactive measures are taken to protect air quality in accordance with the principles of continuous improvement and keeping clean areas clean.


    Six regional airsheds together covering all of Canada have been established to coordinate efforts to reduce transboundary air pollution flows and report on regional air quality. Coordinating mechanisms will be built on existing mechanisms or established as needed to address air pollution issues, including transboundary pollution from the United States, and across interprovincial and inter-regional boundaries.

    Base-level Industrial Emissions Requirements (BLIERs)

    Base-level industrial emission requirements (BLIERs) are intended to ensure that all significant industrial sources in Canada, regardless of where facilities are located, meet a good base-level of performance. BLIERs are quantitative or qualitative emissions requirements proposed for new and existing major industrial sectors and some equipment types. These requirements are based on what leading jurisdictions inside or outside Canada are requiring of industry in “attainment areas,” adjusted for Canadian circumstances. BLIERs are focused on nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM).

    Mobile Sources

    The Air Quality Management System includes an action plan to address emissions from mobile sources. This plan builds on the existing range of federal, provincial and territorial initiatives aimed at reducing emissions from the transportation sector. The action plan priorities are to reduce emissions with advanced transportation technologies and proper vehicle maintenance, and to reduce emissions from in-use diesel vehicles and engines, and by greening fleets.

    Monitoring and Reporting

    Monitoring and public reporting are critical to transparency, accountability and the effective implementation of the system. Provinces and territories, with assistance from the federal government, will be responsible for monitoring in the air zones and reporting to the general public in their jurisdictions on air quality and the measures taken to implement AQMS. Provinces and territories will produce annual air zone reports that include information on achievement of the CAAQS, air quality issues and trends and the air management level in each air zone.

    Airsheds will form the basis for a State of the Air Report to be produced every five years, beginning in 2016. State of the Air Reports will provide information on an airshed basis about air quality across Canada and actions taken to address air quality issues.

    Stakeholder Engagement

    AQMS is built on a foundation of collaboration, accountability and transparency, and broad stakeholder involvement continues to be a cornerstone of the System. Stakeholders are currently engaged at the System level through a Stakeholder Advisory Group which engages in dialogue with and provides advice to governments on the ongoing implementation, improvement, and operation of AQMS. Stakeholders will also be engaged in the development of various elements of the System, including CAAQS for NO2 and SO2, BLIERs and mobile sources actions. Provinces and territories will consult with their publics in delineating and managing their air zones.

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