Canadian Council of Ministers
of the Environment

Le Conseil canadien des ministres
de l'environnement



In October 2012 ministers of environment, with the exception of Québec, agreed to implement a Canada-wide Air Quality Management System (AQMS). AQMS is a comprehensive approach for reducing air pollution in Canada and is the product of an unprecedented collaboration by the federal, provincial and territorial governments and stakeholders. 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. 

The system consists of several interrelated elements.

AQMS ElementsStakeholder Engagement CAAQS Airsheds BLIERs Air Zones Mobile Sources

Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS)

CAAQS are the driver for air quality management across the country.  Standards have been developed for nitrogen dioxidesulphur dioxide and fine particulate matter (PM2.5 ) and ozone, and work is underway to review the standards for ground level ozone . The CAAQS are established as objectives under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999. 

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.


Regional airsheds are broad geographic areas that encompass a number of air zones. Six airsheds together covering all of Canada have been established to coordinate efforts to reduce transboundary air pollution flows and report on regional air quality.

Base-level Industrial Emissions Requirements (BLIERs)

BLIERs are industrial emission requirements which 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 adjusted for Canadian circumstances. BLIERs are focused on nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM). For more information see the Environment Canada webpage on the Multi-Sector Air Pollutants Regulations.

Mobile Sources

The Air Quality Management System includes work to address emissions from mobile sources. The work builds on the existing range of federal, provincial and territorial initiatives aimed at reducing emissions from the transportation sector. Priorities are to reduce emissions through advanced transportation technologies and proper vehicle maintenance, initiatives targeting in-use diesel vehicles and engines, and by greening fleets. Current information is available here.

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 2017. 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. Current information is available here.