I call the meeting to order.
Welcome, Mr. Viersen, to the environment committee. I hope you enjoy your experience here.
Welcome to the 22nd meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, February 3, 2021, and the motion adopted by the committee on February 17, 2021, the committee is resuming its study of Bill , an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, regarding the final disposal of plastic waste.
We have government officials with us here today as requested. They will be here to answer questions during the clause-by-clause.
As the name indicates, this is an examination of the clauses in the order in which they appear in the bill. I will call each clause successively, and each clause is subject to debate and a vote. If there are amendments to the clause in question, I will recognize the member proposing the amendment, who may then explain the amendment. The amendment will then be open for debate. When no further members wish to intervene, the amendment will be voted on. Amendments will be considered in the order in which they appear in the bill or in the package each member received from the clerk. Members should note that amendments must be submitted in writing to the clerk of the committee, or by email for members participating virtually.
Since this is the committee's first clause-by-clause consideration of a bill in a hybrid meeting format, the chair will go slowly to allow members to follow the proceedings properly. Amendments have been given an alphanumeric number in the top right-hand corner to indicate which party submitted them. There's no need for a seconder to move an amendment. Once an amendment is moved, you will need unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment.
During the debate on an amendment, members are permitted to move subamendments. These subamendments must be submitted in writing or by email for members participating virtually. They do not require the approval of the mover of the amendment. Only one subamendment may be considered at a time, and that subamendment may not be amended. When a subamendment to an amendment is moved, it is voted on first. Then another subamendment may be moved or the committee may consider the main amendment and vote on it.
Once every clause has been voted on, the committee will vote on the title and the bill itself, and an order to reprint the bill may be required if amendments are adopted so that the House has a proper copy for use at report stage.
Finally, the committee will have to order the chair to report the bill to the House. That report contains only the text of any adopted amendments as well as an indication of any deleted clauses.
I thank the members for their attention and wish everyone a productive clause-by-clause consideration of Bill .
I want to speak to Mr. Longfield's motion. I think what Mr. Longfield is trying to do is to flag for the committee the concerns of a number of stakeholders whom I think he would like us to hear from. I think that makes a lot of sense.
I'd be surprised if there was push-back on this; I'll put it that way. I hope there's not push-back. There are concerns from across the country, from British Columbia, from Alberta, and I think there are pretty significant and foundational concerns from industry groups. They are concerned about the loss of jobs, including in Alberta and B.C.
Some of the letters have been translated. Some of them have not. We should at least have time for those letters that haven't been translated to be translated so that we can all consider them. We've had a number of discussions at this committee and at others about the importance of making sure that materials that are brought to the committee are translated. Here we have several letters that haven't yet been translated. That's not a criticism of anyone. I'm just trying to underline how important it is that we take the time to get them translated so that we can properly interpret them and consider them.
My greatest concern, of course, is the substance of what's being said in these letters, which is that businesses could be destroyed and jobs could be lost. I just think that's something we should be considering before finalizing the bill and sending it back to the House.
I would simply point out that we went through this exercise before. The Liberals actually did invite additional witnesses, and the witness in question said no. Now it's “the dog ate my homework” and “we need more time”. I know the Liberals opposed this in the House, and they've opposed this and have tried to stall this over and over. I would like us to get to clause-by-clause instead of this usurping of the process before we actually get to it.
I've done my homework. Our Conservative members have done their homework. We have amendments that have been proposed by all parties except the Liberals. This is just a blatant attempt, Mr. Chair, to stall the process, and I'm not sure why the government is doing this.
Our Conservative members feel very strongly about the environment. We want to make sure that plastic waste is not being disposed of in developing countries where they have different laws or no laws. We want to make sure that our oceans do not have plastic in them. It really seems interesting that we have MPs on the Liberal side saying that this is about jobs and investments.
Really, we are going to be studying their own government's proposal on plastics, which is creating a huge amount of concern within the industry. I really hope those arguments are also going to be heard whenever we get to the motion on plastics and to the Liberal government's decision to ban certain plastics without a proper scientific process.
I'm going to go sort of in the same direction as Mr. Albas.
Last time, we asked the witnesses questions, and we agreed on another hour of study. But that didn't happen, and we moved straight to clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
Meanwhile, I looked at it again and made an amendment.
Indeed, the letters we received were already translated. During our study on zero-emission vehicles, a witness submitted a document in French only. So he translated it himself before it was sent to the committee and distributed to us. As a result of that experience, I think that organizations should do this translation work. However, in the letters we received, which were already translated, we can see that the concerns are the same.
I think that during the clause-by-clause study, we may be able to answer some of these questions.
I do apologize. In the background there may be a couple of toddlers screaming, but around this time when kids are returning from school my Internet connection gets worse, so I'm afraid to close the door and cut that off. I do apologize if there's a bit of yelling in the background. Everyone is okay—not to worry.
I'm a bit concerned by Mr. Albas's phrasing of this as “usurping” the process, when we're trying to get documents translated into French so that we have a full understanding of the impact of this. I appreciate that Mr. Albas thinks this is magnificent legislation. I think others have raised fundamental concerns. I know that I'm new to this, and based on what I've heard and what I've read—in English—in these letters, there are some serious concerns about this legislation, which is perhaps well intended but may have significant consequences for Canadian jobs across the country.
We've said from the start—I know Mr. Albas is shrugging as if Liberals don't care about jobs, and nothing could be further from the truth—that with our environmental policy and our action on climate change and sustainable development, this is about being part of furthering jobs for Canadians and furthering economic benefit, and doing so in a sustainable way and in an environmental way that tackles climate change.
I'm a bit worried that we're rushing this through. If I remember.... The last meeting was my first meeting, and I don't know why the opposition cut short our debate. That seemed to be my first interaction with this. We're just asking for a little more time to ensure that we have all of the information before us. I know that's what the opposition wants. If this is really a science-based and evidence-based plan for plastic pollution, then I don't know what can be harmed and why there's a willingness to shut this down and rush this through as quickly as possible.
Coming in from the outside, it's worrying to me, based on what I've read and what I've heard, and the concerns that I've seen from [Technical difficulty—Editor] the desire to have some kind of win on climate change. Given what the Conservatives have done in the past, which is very little, I can appreciate the desire to have some win on an environmental issue, but why rush that through? I appreciate that owning the Libs may be at the heart of it. Maybe that's the case. I hope I'm wrong.
Again, I truly believe this comes from a place of genuine concern. It did receive support from other opposition parties as well and that should be part of our discussion and thought on this issue, but if we're throwing out or ignoring.... That's probably a better way to describe it. If we're ignoring experts in the field, even from Mr. Albas's own province, or from my own province as well, in that there may be an issue in terms of jobs....
I know that people maybe overuse “the environment and the economy go hand in hand” and that we've heard that a lot in question period, but there's a truth to that. There's a significance to that. I think everyone here wants to see good jobs. We all want better action on pollution and plastics [Technical difficulty—Editor] the issue by holding off a bit so that we have all the information in front of us. It seems [Technical difficulty—Editor] move forward on this. We wouldn't want to pass a bad piece of legislation that's well intended.
I'll give you an example. I remember that in the last Parliament Mr. Cooper brought forward a piece of legislation with respect to bail reform, and I voted for it at second reading. Based on my cursory reading of the legislation, it seemed well intentioned. It was worthy of study.
We needed to move that forward and have that debate, but then we heard from expert after expert about how flawed that legislation was, what a disaster it could be and what significant impacts it could have on our justice system. Despite voting on it at second reading, we heard from Crowns, we heard from defence lawyers and we heard from police chiefs, all—
I always appreciate your point, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate all your work, and not only here. Mr. Scarpaleggia also chairs our national caucus. I apologize if I'm going off point here, but I respect your opinion and your views regardless of the circumstances or place.
Again, that parallel exists, but in terms of the environment, again we have a significant.... I mentioned justice and it's outrageous that I would mention something like justice in the environment committee, but we do want there to be a positive outcome. That's what I'm arguing for. That's what we all want to see. We all want to see the environment benefit at the end. Perhaps we can get these letters translated, it will become part of the public record and everyone will want to move forward—no problem.
I don't see the issue of leaving out a piece of the puzzle. I guess that's the surprising thing. Again, I know that I'm new to this committee. You've all sat through these meetings, and I don't want to overstep—even though now that I'm a member of the committee I guess I'm not overstepping. There's something missing for me, and I want to get that piece of the puzzle back in here.
Be it climate, be it justice or be it any issue before Parliament, it's a bit surprising that we want to avoid this information, that we don't want to see it and that we don't want it translated, which is, I guess, according to Mr. Albas, “usurping” the process, to have documents translated into French. That's a weird definition that Mr. Albas was suggesting, which is surprising given his party's commitment and what they talk about in question period, but when the rubber hits the road in committee, nothing could be further from the truth.
I see a few more of my colleagues with their hands up. I guess I'll leave it there, Mr. Chair. I appreciate all that you bring to the committee and I appreciate the opportunity to [Technical difficulty—Editor] again after hearing from my colleagues.
No, that's fine, if Ms. Saks is okay with that.
This isn't a process of filibustering or delaying. I think my concern going into this meeting was that we just heard from a lot of people who didn't just “not like” this legislation; they really did not like it. In fact, they said it would jeopardize the future of their business as well as any future activities going toward a circular economy.
One letter that we haven't been able to see is from Rundle Eco Services Ltd., from Calgary. We don't have it on the record, so I just want to read this very short paragraph from him, which states:
Simply put, passage of Bill C-204 will put Canadian Recyclers like Rundle Eco Services Ltd. out of business. Our employees will lose their jobs and certain jobs of the service providers Rundle employs such [as] the construction companies and transportation companies, may be in jeopardy. The development of a plastic circular economy will be that much more challenged as we lose opportunities to create economic value and new jobs. Critical channels for our clients to recycle will be redirected to Canada’s landfills.
This is the point I was making in the last committee meeting. It continues:
Our US recyclers will be short of used plastic materials and unable to supply the increasing demands for higher recycled content in a multitude of plastic products.
These aren't wishy-washy statements. I think they're very critical to the study we're doing. It's very important that their voices are heard. This is Calgary, Alberta. It's not a political “let's hear from my constituents”. We have similar letters from Alberta Plastics, from Merlin Plastics in British Columbia, from the Ontario Environment Industry Association, and from Ice River Sustainable Solutions in Shelburne, Ontario. These are people who are very concerned about this study, saying that if this legislation goes through, it will have a dramatic impact on their business as well as recycling in Canada, which I think is critical for our study.
I want to find a way to have their voices heard, especially the ones from [Technical difficulty—Editor] need their voices at this table, but also Ontario and Quebec. Are we going to tell Quebec how to run their landfill systems after this? I think there's enough flaw here, before we go to clause-by-clause, that we need to hear their voices.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think we're missing a critical piece of due diligence here. For any piece of legislation that we're going to go through and review, and even get to the clause-by-clause stage on, the due diligence needs to be done. I'm frankly shocked that Conservative MPs, who are always asking for due diligence, who are really always asking us to get down to the facts and to the nitty-gritty and to the fine details of understanding the full picture, are in this case saying “no”. I don't know how western Canadian businesses would feel to see a Conservative MP saying that their voices aren't relevant to this discussion and that their businesses don't matter. I'm really quite surprised.
Frankly, if we're going to go through this process, we didn't receive one or two letters; we received seven. We have an absolute obligation to make sure that everything is translated to meet our obligations, not just to this House but to the language laws of Canada, to make sure that all members in all committees can have access to this important information from stakeholders.
If western Canadian industry is saying that this is a problem for them, and if Quebec recycling.... They're a model for the country with what they've built there. If they could potentially be impacted by this, why wouldn't we pause to make sure that we have a fulsome, Canada-wide understanding of the impact on industry before we take a bill that's been rushed through this process?
Everyone here wants a good direction in climate action. Everyone here wants proposals and legislation put on the table that will help the Canadian economy grow and thrive while we switch to a green economy. Why wouldn't we take the time to make sure that these stakeholders are heard in both official languages and we have a clear understanding of what we're doing as we move forward? Frankly, I'm just very shocked.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Yes. I'll just take a second.
Okay. Here we go. Here's the way it reads with Mr. Longfield's amendment. As I understand it—and please feel free, Madam Clerk, to correct me—the only part that would stay the same would be “That this committee”.
The motion as amended by Mr. Longfield reads, “That this committee, further to the motion adopted on February 1, 2021, related to a hearing on the role of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, produce a report with respect to strengthening the role and mandate of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development; and that the committee take into consideration all testimony to the committee with respect to that role and mandate in the 43rd Parliament, as well as the report of the committee tabled in the 39th Parliament, first session, on March 1, 2007.”
I think I remember that report.
That's what we're voting on, essentially. Does somebody want to debate this?
Mr. Baker, do you want to debate this amendment?
Thanks very much, Chair.
Ms. Collins made a few points. I want to speak to one or two of those, and then I have some other thoughts to add.
I hear your point, Ms. Collins, about removing so many words of your motion. The good news, at least from my vantage point, is that I think the intent is to address the same problem that I think you're trying to address. I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, but I think what Mr. Longfield is trying to do is to suggest that we look into the problem that I think you're trying to flag—or at least one of them, if I understand the intent of your motion correctly—which is to make sure that we understand how we strengthen the accountability mechanisms, or one of the key accountability mechanisms, to make sure that government is doing what it has to do to fight climate change, protect our environment and achieve a whole bunch of other goals.
So although I appreciate how it has eliminated a lot of the text, I wanted to flag that aspect of it. I saw it much more as a sort of co-operative or constructive approach to trying to address the same problem that I think you were trying to address, although I'm not trying to put words in your mouth.
You referenced that this motion is similar to what was done in the past. I have to admit that I wasn't around for that. I gather you weren't. You clearly identified it, though, and I applaud you for having caught it. I wasn't there for that. I wasn't part of that Liberal team. I don't know what was moved and in what context and everything else. I also wasn't there for the reports that Mr. Longfield alluded to that had been done by the committee.
My thinking is that if we're trying to solve the problem of making sure that the environmental commissioner is providing the appropriate oversight and transparency, a study on the matter, or studying the matter further, would be helpful. It would just help us be that much better equipped to make sure we have those mechanisms in place. That would be my key argument for supporting this.
One other thing that is worth keeping in mind.... I think it was when Ms. Hogan came and presented to us. I think on a couple of occasions the issue came up of the importance of having environmental and sustainable development expertise available and involved across all audits. There are such things as just environmental audits, but many audits or a lot of oversight involves a range of expertise across a range of ministries, etc. That would be an argument for why, I think, if we want to achieve the goal of providing the best possible oversight....
Let's look into that. Let's study that. I'm all for that. It's important. But I would suggest we take that extra step to do it as thoughtfully and in as balanced a way as possible to make sure that we come up with the best outcome.
Your point is clearly made.
The clerk is sending it around so that we can all see what Mr. Longfield is proposing. Mr. Longfield's additions will be in red.
It hasn't changed much. It is very much a refinement. It's not a total negation of the ideas in Ms. Collins's original motion. I mean, look, if there's disagreement with the amendment, the committee can vote down the amendment. Then we're back to debating and voting on Ms. Collins's original motion.
I don't think it's out of order, to be honest, but I'll wait until you all get a written copy. We have more speakers, but that doesn't prevent us, after the speakers, from voting on Mr. Longfield's proposal. If it's defeated, we're back to the original motion.
Has everyone received the written version with Mr. Longfield's proposed changes?
As I understand it, it says “That this committee produce a report for the government to bring forward legislation to strengthen the role of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development considering”, etc., and then it all follows.
I do apologize. Even though I'm new to this committee, I should probably know better than to question the clerk in any committee, so I do appreciate that and I do apologize for that.
Going back to my point about 14 years ago, a lot has changed. Maybe the chair was here as a member of Parliament, and perhaps some others on this committee. I was just out of law school and, as I was suggesting, Mr. Baker was far younger than I was and probably in elementary school at some point.
I can appreciate what is trying to be done here, which is to gum up the House of Commons in terms of giving an opportunity for a concurrence debate on the issue to prevent passage and delay passage of things like UNDRIP and to prevent passage of other pieces of legislation, to delay it, to slow things down a bit.
This is my first time in a committee—and I've been on a few others, as I've mentioned, on justice, but I've been on PROC and transport and now on environment—where it's just “let's just have a report”, with no evidence and no witnesses and “we'll just put this forward”. I appreciate Mr. Longfield's amendment that's saying “let's take some time to consider this.”
I know there are a lot of items on the committee's agenda. I don't know that there's enough time to deal with all the items on the committee's agenda before we get to the end of June, but we have the fall. We have a lot of time. There's lots of time left in this Parliament to debate the important issues, and jumping the gun on this issue isn't necessarily the right way to go. I appreciate that it will make for a great concurrence debate to take three hours out of the House of Commons and to.... There may not be enough opposition days for the NDP to fill the time as they would like, and this would be perhaps a great opposition day motion.
I would think.... From speaking to my colleagues before I started on this committee, my understanding was that there was a real willingness on this committee to get to the bottom of various items, and I guess I've been disappointed today. First, in this effort to rush forward legislation, we didn't want to hear with respect to stakeholders in an industry who were concerned about losing their businesses, to delay it a week or so, so that we could hear and get evidence. Now, to push forward something that, hey, this was something that was agreed on 14 years ago and let's just push it forward....
I think Mr. Longfield is right. Let's have a discussion. Let's bring in some evidence. Let's bring in some witnesses. Let's talk about these items. Let's have a proper report. If we're going to make recommendations to the government, I think there is a willingness to listen to recommendations, but is this coming from a place where we want this to be properly considered? Is this that we just want there to be an opportunity for a concurrence motion so that we can have a few clips for Facebook and then we lose that opportunity to really sink our teeth into something that is significant and something that is fundamentally important?
Again, I see the willingness of all members of this committee who want a greener future, a greener Canada, and there are different paths forward on that, but I don't see how this is really advancing things, and again, from the other side of it, how it's going to slow things down in the House of Commons....
I see a couple of hands up, and I will yield the floor, but I appreciate that and hope that we move forward with a thorough discussion and a proper report.
Again, to address that point, this is quite unusual. I have to agree with Mr. Longfield. If there has been evidence that this committee has heard in this session of Parliament, let's do a proper report.
I guess I haven't seen it.... That doesn't mean it doesn't happen all the time. Perhaps I'm not paying enough attention. But the practice of the committees that I've been on, which maybe are different from this committee, is that we hear evidence. We compile that evidence. We do a report. Then we submit that report to Parliament, rather than just have a quick motion in order to produce a concurrence report at the end of the day so that we can slow down the House of Commons on fundamental issues. That's debate that can happen on other issues.
I can appreciate that this may be a great opposition day motion for the NDP. This might be a great one. But trying to do this in a way that, again, doesn't build on what's been heard.... If evidence and witnesses have come forward, let's do a report and say, “This is where the commissioner said X. This is where they said Y. This is where we agree. This is what we recommend to the government.” Again, there is a willingness to listen. There is a willingness to have a strengthened regime for environmental protection across government and in this country. I don't see the need to rush this.
Is this something that we do all the time in this committee? It really worries me that, on day two of being on this committee, it's, “Hurry up. Just pass it. We don't need to hear from witnesses. We don't need proper reports.” It's troubling, given the significance of all these issues to Canadians, be it with respect to the first motion and the businesses that could potentially be impacted, and now in terms of having an actual report and putting the evidence together and piecing that together.
I know it's more challenging. I know it's more difficult. I know it will take longer to be in a position to have a concurrence motion. But rather than just put it through, isn't it better to put it off a couple of months and have something genuine?
Again, I believe this is genuine. If there is evidence tied to actual recommendations that allow for the government to respond back, then we have something positive, something that we can build upon and something that we can be proud of as a committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll try to keep my comments brief, because I know there's an interest by Ms. Collins to move ahead.
I'm a rookie here in Parliament and I'm a rookie on this committee. I've watched the process happen, and I would say to Ms. Collins that just like we did with the zero emissions work for Madam Pauzé on her report, you want to take something to the House that you're proud of, that really has impact and can make a shift.
It's not really a matter of accountability to me here. It's that we've compiled evidence and we don't have a report. I know you think that with the reports from years back...but I certainly didn't sit at those meetings, nor did you or many other individuals who are sitting here. Let's put something forward that makes sense so that it has impact when it gets to the House, rather than having a back-and-forth. I'd like to see some of the things you've suggested in your motion. These pieces are important. My constituents have talked to me about how important accountability is for them.
You're better served in the House with a motion that has a report to back it up. It's not about stalling here. It's about doing the process and the good work that comes to the House to have impact. That's why I'm here. I really do want to support conceptually what you're trying to move forward, but the strength comes with the material and the recommendations behind it rather than a fast and dirty throwing down of a motion and sending it through. I'm a fan of substantive work. I like to be proud of what I put my name on when it goes forward into the House, and I would hope for that too. That's really what we're trying to do here, rather than just copying and pasting and saying, “You said this then. Let's do it now.”
Well, certain principles of what you're putting forward still matter now, absolutely, but we have more information and we have to compile that and make it comprehensive for the House so that what you put forward sticks. Otherwise, I really question why we wouldn't do it in a way that process dictates we do through this committee.
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
I'm glad that we're moving forward into clause-by-clause, but I'm troubled that we're missing out on the voices that we've received.
Richard Seto from Rundle Eco Services was the example I brought forward to try to have his voice heard at our committee, and we're not hearing his voice. We don't have a translated copy, but I think it's really important to hear his voice. He represents a lot of voices in Alberta and I want to tell you want he said:
Rundle Eco Services Ltd...appreciates the opportunity to provide this brief [on] concerns regarding Bill C-204.
Rundle is a small business operating in Alberta and a member of the Alberta Plastics Recycling Association. We endorse their comments as laid out in their briefing submitted to the Committee.
Unfortunately, as I said, these haven't been translated, but we can read it so that we can get the translation. It continues:
Rundle does not support in any way whatsoever, the export of plastics to other countries as a means of plastics disposal. In this brief, we wanted to describe what the passage of Bill C-204 will do to our small business which will be reflective of what will happen to many other small businesses engaged in plastic recycling in Canada.
Rundle collects plastics from major petroleum producers in Canada. Our clients do have a cheaper option and can dispose of the plastics directly to a land fill. However, they choose Rundle because of Rundle’s commitment to ship plastics to recyclers who will transform the recovered plastic into feedstock for producing other products. Furthermore, our clients desire to kickstart a circular economy while fulfilling their environmental stewardship duties.
Since inception, our company largely depends on exporting our plastic commodity with most of it going the United States and a lesser amount to Asia. Rundle continues to search out Canadian recyclers but there are few takers for our type of plastics. The acceptance of used plastic is challenging. Typically, a recycler producing recycled plastic feed stock needs to be located close to major manufacturing hubs. Those recyclers, based on their customers needs, take only certain types of used plastic and certainly not all plastics. These recyclers must make significant investments in technology and specialized facilities that can sort, clean and process used plastic A high level of plastic throughput is mandatory to achieve economies of scale and create value. Most of this infrastructure for Rundle exists only in the United States.
Since Rundle started shipping used plastic to the USA years ago, each individual load is scrutinized by US Customs and Border Protection. The loads were admitted only because their end use is for feed stock for a specific recycler. We further note Canada has ratified, along with 170 other countries, the recent amendments to the Basel Convention. Specifically, new entry B3011 in Annex IX allows for the cross-border movement of nonhazardous plastic waste that is only bound for recycling that will be performed in an environmentally sound manner. Bill C204 wants to prevent plastic waste from be exported however this prevention already exists as mentioned. We are concerned that Bill C204 is redundant and will cause further confusion.
Simply put, passage of Bill C-204 will put Canadian Recyclers like Rundle Eco Services Ltd. out of business. Our employees will lose their jobs and certain jobs of the service providers Rundle employs such the construction companies and transportation companies, may be in jeopardy. The development of a plastic circular economy will be that much more challenged as we lose opportunities to create economic value and new jobs. Critical channels for our clients to recycle will be redirected to Canada’s landfills. Our US recyclers will be short of used plastic materials and unable to supply the increasing demands for higher recycled content in a multitude of plastic products.
He concludes with the following:
Rundle appreciates the opportunity to present it's concerns to the Committee. We are available to answer any questions the Committee may have about our submission.
This is what I was saying when we had our initial debate. There are letters upon letters, and they all say the same thing: This legislation is dangerous for their businesses, will not help us recycle and, in fact, anything in this legislation that could be considered positive already exists in agreements that we've already signed as a country.
Based on that, for clause 1, I can't see passing it, because it is going to hurt Canadian businesses and not get us to the objectives of recycling that we all want.
Thanks very much, Chair.
I want to also highlight concerns raised by folks in the recycling industry. In this case, I wanted to cite the concerns raised by the Alberta Plastics Recycling Association. I'm not going to read the entire letter. You all have it. I just want to highlight some of their concerns. They say:
We are aligned with our colleagues at the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada...in our assertion that Bill C-204 will bring great harm to the industry, while detracting from our efforts to build a circular economy and increase opportunities for plastics recycling.
When I hear that, that's very concerning. I'm not going to read the entire letter, but here's another piece:
lt is important ta note that, despite best of intentions, the current sorting infrastructure and technology systems in place at Canada's recycling facilities do not allow for completely pristine (clean and fully sorted) bales of plastic to be sent for recycling. This means that bales of plastic destined for recycling will include materials that end up for final disposal in the US. This Bill could hamper the efforts to develop and support the recycling ecosystem whereby mixed bales are sent to various facilities with different sorting capabilities across North America.
That's speaking about how the bill would prevent that ecosystem from functioning.
I want to read on:
ln addition, because of the absence of any definition for 'final disposal' this Bill fails to recognize that what may be destined for final disposal in Canada could potentially be used by companies for manufacturing in other jurisdictions. Since we lack infrastructure for advanced sorting, Canadian companies may send plastics bales to other locations because of equipment/technologies they have in place. lt is not unusual for bales to go through primary and secondary sorting at different facilities in North America; this Bill is unclear regarding how the definition of final disposal will apply and when it will apply in the trade of plastic bales.
What they're basically saying is that it's uncertain what would be allowed for export and what would not. Regardless, what they're saying is that a lot of infrastructure is necessary to process what may be required to stay in Canada and that means it may not be processed. You can imagine that would mean it would likely go to landfills, and that's the last thing we want.
Near the bottom of the letter, they talk about this:
Bill C-204 does not represent the interests of our members who provide plastic recycling solutions in support of Alberta and Canada's objectives to advance a plastics circular economy. Bill C-204, if passed, would create harm to our members' and the wider industries' ability to collect, process and market plastics in the future. Alberta needs full access to overseas markets.
All this is to say that I think the folks at the Alberta Plastics Recycling Association have highlighted a number of concerns.
One is that the definitions in the rules in the bill are unclear, which makes it unclear as to which materials would be allowed for export and which would not. That's number one. Number two, they're highlighting that it would bring great harm to the industry.
Number three, they're highlighting that this would have an environmental impact within Canada, a negative one, certainly, because the infrastructure doesn't exist in Canada to process much of the material that would be prevented from export and which is currently exported for the purpose of processing cleanly. This would do harm to the environment because it presumably would force Canadian industry to put a lot of this material into landfills.
The fourth concern is the economic impact on the members of Alberta Plastics Recycling Association and also the employment impact.
I wanted to highlight all of those and thus suggest that this portion of the bill shouldn't pass. Thank you.
I want to build on what my colleague Mr. Baker was saying. Usually on committee [Technical difficulty—Editor] letters are against the passage of this bill, and they are from people who are widely connected in the industry, have investments in the industry and probably know the industry better than we do. I think if we're going to impact people in such a way that every letter reflects how this will have a negative impact on us, then we have a duty to listen to them, to listen to their concerns and to really get down to the bottom of this in terms of how we are producing legislation when there's so much economic influence tied to that.
I'm looking at one letter from my home province of Ontario, from the Ontario Waste Management Association, which writes:
The Ontario Waste Management Association strongly supports recycling and waste diversion efforts, including transitioning Ontario's signature Blue Box recycling program to full producer responsibility. Evidence shows that this is the best way to encourage producers, manufacturers and retailers to incorporate changes in product and packaging design to reduce waste.
The industry itself is on the pathway to reducing waste. They go on further to say:
Policies to encourage waste diversion and material recovery here in Canada are far more beneficial to our country's circular economy, and the environment, than an outright ban on waste export. There is considerable potential for increased capital investment and job creation in the recycling sector through producer responsibility requirements for end-of-life management of plastics, as well as economic benefits by stimulating the development of markets for recycled materials.
An outright ban on the export of waste materials that contain certain types of plastic will have a significant cost impact on waste management companies and municipalities—
He's now talking about the legislation affecting municipalities and ultimately affecting provinces:
—who regularly transport a range of materials for recycling and final disposal across the Canada-US border.
It is impossible to overstate the negative impact on Canada that would result from the type of waste export ban that is being proposed in Bill C-204. Many of the plastics listed in Schedule 7of Bill C-204 are normally found in solid waste that is routinely transported from Canada to the United States for disposal. The disruption to this cross-border waste flow would greatly exceed the physical capacity of disposal sites in Canada to manage these volumes.
We urge the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to recommend against the passage of Bill C-204.
It's signed, “Sincerely, Mike Chopowick, Chief Executive Officer”.
He, in his letter, has been very clear and succinct in three main areas. One is that investing in our own industries will create more jobs and would be better for the economy and, ultimately, better for the environment because you would have that circular recovery.
Number two, things are going to be impacted. We have free trade agreements across borders that may be impacted by this. Also, he mentions, significantly, that the municipalities would be impacted, which would also encroach upon their jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of the provinces. More importantly, he talks about the negative impact and how it's going to impact the association and its employees.
I think it's important that we hear these voices and we continue to investigate to see how this legislation will have negative impacts, because as a committee, we would want to be more aware, not less aware, and more knowledgeable as to how the actual impacts will occur. I think it's important that we hear these voices, as I've said on other committees, to get different, varying degrees of opinion.
These are serious organizations. These are serious people. These are people who have skin in the game. Their organizations have skin in the game. Multiple recyclers across the country are going to be affected, and I, as one person, would like to know how the impact will happen, in what way the impact will happen and how we can either minimize the impact or change certain things. I think to just ignore all these voices would be bad for us and ultimately bad for the country. These voices, as I said before, who have skin in the game with investments, who have made clear investments not only economically but in terms of training their employees, are coming not just from one province; they're coming from Ontario, Alberta and B.C.
I think we need to hear their voices to make sure, as we review this legislation, that we're making a positive impact and trying our best to make sure that all voices are heard. The voices that are the most pertinent are the voices of those folks, the individuals or associations, who have come out clearly asking us to not pass this legislation. They have clearly defined in their letters how this legislation would impact them.
I reviewed it earlier. First, economically there will be an impact. Second, there will be the loss of recyclable ability for certain companies. Third, companies have acknowledged that they want to take a path forward in making sure that they try to keep the plastic circular in a way.
They have also defined that going in that direction would actually be good for the environment and good for the economy. Jobs would be produced. I think you have a win, win, win. You are protecting the environment. You're advancing the economy. You're creating jobs for Canadians.
If you look at all the letters, they are all similar to some extent, depending on what part of the [Technical difficulty—Editor]. We need to take the time to analyze this in a way that reflects their worries, but also encourages us to be more aware, more responsible and ultimately produce legislation that's going to be effective and not have a negative impact on those people who are currently working to reduce waste.
Mr. Chair, that's all I have to say.
I would like to continue with what my colleagues Mr. Saini and Mr. Longfield have shared about the letters we have received from the industry. I have one here from Ice River Sustainable Solutions, another industry leader here in Shelburne, Ontario. This letter says the same things about the impact on the circular economy that we have heard in the other letters we have received, and not just the circular economy within Canada but also in terms of our relationship and our imports and exports with the United States.
I just don't see how we can ignore the impacts of not hearing these voices as we review this legislation. Ice River shares that:
Without a clear definition for the term “final disposal,” Bill C-204 has the potential to block the export of plastic wastes for the purposes of downstream processes that could permit secondary markets and maximize value from plastic waste. Downstream processes like advanced recycling, waste to fuels, and waste to energy, are integral components of a circular economy for plastics.
Given the absence of any definition for “final disposal”, this Bill fails to recognize that what may be destined for final disposal in Canada could potentially be used by companies in other jurisdictions. Since we lack infrastructure for advanced sorting, Canada may send plastic bales to other locations because of equipment/technologies they have in place.
If we disrupt the industry this way and we don't think about the impacts, there would be a cost all along the way. There would be a cost to industry, a cost to the end-user, a cost to B2B and a cost to Canadians. Without a careful thought process [Technical difficulty—Editor] to clause 1, we're missing a clear definition on what we're talking about in terms of plastics.
I share the concerns of my colleagues in making sure that we do hear from these individuals and from these companies. They are making their voices loud and clear. Many of them are from out west, from B.C. and Alberta, and I don't understand why our Conservative colleagues don't want to stand up for these businesses and make sure they are heard as we move through this discussion.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
P.E.T. Processing has sent us a letter from their president, Tony Moucachen. I won't read the three pages other than his closing, which is based on all of the background in his letter. It has a lot of technical issues in it. Unfortunately, we don't have the letter in front of us because of translation services. I absolutely respect that. I think we just passed a motion about making sure we have everything available in both official languages.
Mr. Moucachen says the following in his closing:
PET believes it's important that the Committee understand the following realities and how the passage of the Bill will negatively affect the plastics recycling industry:
Intricate north-south business relationships are already well established;
Prohibiting shipments of plastics waste bales across the border because only a small component may not be recyclable, would be a crushing blow to the recyclers and their ability to successfully recycle the millions of pounds of plastic that are recycled every year.
He has three more points:
Cross border shipments are often made to facilities that have the ability and interest to perform additional sorting and additional recycling for specific plastic types;
Canada does not have as robust a manufacturing sector as the US. Therefore, what the Bill might designate as being for “final disposal” could actually be something that is usable by US manufacturers for other purposes;
Not all plastic types are recycled in Canada, and there are more recycling facilities available in the US. Therefore, if access to the US is reduced, this will correspondingly reduce access to their recycling infrastructure and hamper Canadian businesses.
We therefore submit that enacting the Bill will frustrate the proper development of a circular economy and should not be passed.
Thank you for allowing us to share our views on the Bill.
I wanted to give him a voice here. He doesn't mention it directly in his conclusion, but it's stated elsewhere in his letter that the municipalities, therefore, would have to handle the extra waste.
We now have before us clause-by-clause on a bill on which we are being screamed at by the industry. They're a for-profit industry, but they're based on helping the environment through commercial means and through recycling and sorting. They're saying, “You're going in the wrong direction.” Now we're in clause-by-clause. How do we get back to the right direction? At least partly, it's to get their voices at the table.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First, to respond to Mr. Bittle's question and to what we heard from the officials, unfortunately, despite that reassurance, since the current legislative structure we have has been in place, we have seen waste showing up in countries that do not have the infrastructure to deal with it. There have been a number of reports since Canada changed its regulations and its rules, which means there is still a gap. This is very well documented. We have also had testimony and briefs from environmental stakeholders, and we referenced a report from the Environmental Law Association demonstrating that there are still gaps in our current legislation.
Our current legislation is not adequate to actually stop the export of this kind of waste. I think it's really important also to note that we have heard from two different Liberal committee members so far that, on the one hand, this is somehow redundant and we do not need it whatsoever, and on the other hand, it somehow goes far beyond the scope of the bill and is going to be way too far-reaching.
I think you have to choose one or the other.
I would just say in closing that I think it's really important that we're addressing not only the issue of waste for final disposal but also the issue of unsorted plastic waste that ends up in countries and has serious health impacts for people around the world. Canada needs to stop doing this. We also need to make sure we have strong legislation to avoid what we've heard again and again, which is that currently there's a loophole that allows Canada to send waste to the U.S., which could then be sent to other countries that don't have the infrastructure to deal with it, and that there isn't a firm way to stop that.
This amendment attempts to strengthen the bill, and I hope we can get committee support to do so.
One of the difficulties I've had with this is that we've had testimony that is clearly saying that the legislation we have, which we introduced in December, by the way.... This isn't something we've been sitting on for years. We worked with our international partners on the Basel Convention. We actually led a lot of those discussions. Then we worked with the new administration in the United States so that we have a regime in place to make sure that, first of all, we protect the recycling industry and do no harm there, and second of all, we reduce the amount of plastics going into landfill, which I think all of us would like to see.
The point is that this legislation doesn't achieve that, in a two-line private member's bill that's up against all of the documents that we have, that we've negotiated internationally and that protect the environment from plastics getting into landfill and our oceans and streams. The industry itself is eager to continue to do this. Now the industry is saying to us that what we're doing will cause a lot of harm to their industry. It will actually go in the opposite direction to achieving the results around reducing the amount of plastics that end up, in a linear economy, going from consumption to landfill. We need a circular economy. This legislation will not get us there.
We're not saying, “Let's stop. Let's do the status quo.” The status quo has already changed. We've negotiated that internationally. We have partners through the Basel Convention. We have partners now with the United States. We are on track to reducing the plastics getting into our rivers and streams and our landfills. This actually puts an anchor around our ankle.
The good intention is there, but the legislation doesn't back up the good intention. The details aren't there even for the definition of what “final use” is. We have no definitions to work with. Industry needs certainty. This doesn't give certainty. It actually gives the opposite. It opens it up to a free-for-all.
In response to Ms. Saks's question and comments, for the latter portion of this amendment, it's really important to know that Canada has ratified specific amendments, but they have not ratified a very crucial amendment around waste for “special consideration”.
What we heard from the testimony from Mr. Puckett.... He was our witness from the organization focused on the Basel Convention. He said that this amendment would actually fill in an important gap in the current legislation, and that he was hoping to see us align our language with the parts of the Basel Convention that we haven't yet ratified.
In response to what we have heard from officials, yes, absolutely, since 2016 we have changed our regulations to require permits whenever plastic garbage is exported to countries that see that waste as hazardous, but since 2016 we have been seeing.... In 2019, there were reports from Malaysia and Cambodia that they had found containers of Canadian plastic garbage in their ports. Clearly, the 2016 changes have not addressed the issue.
The amendments that came in most recently in December are amendments that don't actually cover hazardous waste, or waste for special consideration in particular, which is why I have put forward this amendment.
I guess this is just concerning.... Again, I didn't hear the evidence, and I've gone back through and looked over some material. I appreciate the author's commitment to the environment. I know that he has spoken passionately about it. He was on the transport committee. These are issues that are near and dear to him.
It seems to be a proposal written on the back of a napkin that we are now putting forward to Parliament and that could have significant far-reaching consequences and cause chaos in the industry, but that would have no mechanism with which to properly enforce it. What are we trying to achieve here? I guess that is my question.
We've rushed this, in my short view of it, because on the two motions we've heard on this bill, one was to limit debate and the next one was to prevent further debate. That one was today's motion. Now we're hearing that there may not be an ability to enforce these confusing mechanisms that are being put into place. Why are we doing this? This is problematic. If it doesn't help and it can't be enforced, why are we even going through this exercise, to just cause chaos in the industry?
Again, I get that Conservative politicians had a bad week last week on climate change with the Supreme Court decision, with doubling down on failed rhetoric and [Technical difficulty—Editor] want to achieve that win, but what's the win going to look like?
Again, I appreciate the passion, and I appreciate that everyone wants to see better management of plastic waste. I don't think that's an issue that's disputed. We all want to see that. Why are we doing it in such a way that it can't be enforced or will be challenged just based on that one answer? If it can't be inspected, it can't be enforced. If the inspection powers aren't tied to it, are charges going to be thrown out?
I've already asked one legal question and was told I couldn't get a legal opinion, so I won't ask another one. This is fundamentally flawed, yet we push on, and yet we want to see this through, regardless of the outcome, regardless of the industry's pleading to put a pause on this, to try to make it so that there's some sense in this.
Again, if the goal is to have it enforced—and I appreciate that my friends in the opposition likely want this enforced—and if Parliament passes legislation, we want to see that enforced and enforced properly. If that can't happen, what are we doing here...?
I appreciate that Mr. Albas has his hand up, and I'm really looking forward to hearing from him, but this is shocking to me, coming into this, and again at the last minute. I don't know where this committee wants to go with this and where it sees this piece of legislation—which is confusing, unenforceable and has the potential to cause damage to an industry that is trying to help—ending up.
I appreciate that Mr. Albas has a point. I'd be happy to hear from him.
I'd like to thank Mr. Bittle for raising my intervention, because I hope this will not just help clarify the position of the Conservatives but also allow for industry as well as for Canadians in general to understand that our primary motivation is that we are concerned that too much plastic is ending up being dumped into our oceans. That is why we are here. We want to make sure that Canada is being responsible for its own waste. As a father and as a community leader, I know there is so much that we could be doing, and the average citizen is saying, “Let's try to make systems that work.”
First of all, I would just say to this that I believe that 99.9% of Canadian industry members are ethical and want to do the right thing, but as long as we have laws that allow them to utilize other means, they will be at a competitive disadvantage. The great thing about 's bill here, Bill , is that it clearly says that we are no longer going to be allowing this to happen unless it falls under annex IV B of the Basel Convention. People who still want to recycle clean, sorted plastics can do so and have that trade. That's not a problem, but what has been cited here is a small ability from the enforcement [Technical difficulty—Editor] inspection.
If—as we believe and, I hope, Mr. Bittle agrees—99.9% of Canadian industry members are good, outstanding citizens who want to do good things for our planet and for our country, they are going to comply. I will also point out to him, seeing as he sits on the ENVI committee with us, that we will have an opportunity to review the CEPA at some point so we can fine-tune those things.
If he's really concerned about the enforcement mechanism, why on earth doesn't he use his position as a parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Environment to go to , look him in the eye and ask, “Why, Minister, have we signed an agreement with President Trump whereby the Americans have not given themselves the power to stop items from going out?” We had officials say, in the hearings we had, that right now, we have traceability. I have asked how the Americans can have a system that Canada recognizes as being equivalent to Basel if they don't have a mechanism to even charge people if they decide to send our plastic waste to another country for it to be dumped, illegally, perhaps, or even legally, because some countries don't have that.
If the member is truly committed to enforcement, then he will work with Conservative members when that part of CEPA comes up. He will then also go to his minister and protest the fact that Canada has signed up with a country that doesn't have a legal mechanism to enforce the same standard as that under Canadian law.
I would simply say to the member that he can be part of the solution. He can join with Conservatives right now. We can pass this legislation and we can all go home tonight—or for those who are at home, such as me, we can go to the other room—and say to our family members, “We did something good for Canada today.”
It's a very interesting point that Mr. Albas brings up in agreeing that this is flawed legislation and that we'll fix it later. That's whenever we get to it, because legislation is moving very quickly through Parliament, so I'm sure it will rapidly get to things.... I probably shouldn't be sarcastic in a transcript situation. I always warn my clients against that, because that can be read back into the record as the opposite. Sarcasm doesn't read well, but seriously.... I appreciate Mr. Albas suggesting this and telling me my new job, and I do appreciate any suggestions that do come up, as it has only been a few days on the job, but as a lawyer, this really boggles the mind.
Yes, I agree that 99% of businesses and 99% of Canadians are going to follow the law. They want to do what's right, but imagine creating a Criminal Code offence.... I know that I'm speaking of an analogy, and I'll wait for Mr. Albas's point of order to come up because we can only speak about the environment in the environment committee, and I'm sure he may be concerned that I'm venturing off on a point of relevancy. Imagine creating a Criminal Code offence that the police couldn't investigate, or where there would be challenges in investigating that offence. That's not doable. Maybe that 99% becomes 98%, which becomes 97% or 96%, because there's not going to be a concern.
I sit not too far from the Queen Elizabeth Way and [Technical difficulty—Editor] if he's been down to southern Ontario. The speed limit is 100 kilometres an hour. In some places, it's 110 kilometres an hour. If we knew that the OPP, the Ontario Provincial Police, were never going to set up a speed trap on the QEW, I can imagine that the rate of speed may increase, despite the good wishes of southern Ontarians to be safe. That may not be the case. You might not get 99% compliance on a regulatory offence or a regulatory conviction.
Again, if there is this desire to better ourselves and to better the disposal of plastic waste—which, again, I believe is there—why are we doing this if it can't be enforced? Why are we doing this if this is the challenge?
At the end of the day, we're getting to a point where it's “Hey, we passed legislation, but we'll fix it later. We just need a Conservative piece of legislation that shows that maybe we care about the environment and we care about climate change”—even though this may or may not be related to that—“despite our previous positions going back. We need that win.”
That's despite the fact that the win is a mess that will cause significant issues, potentially, and which will, if it gets to a court [Technical difficulty—Editor] for problems that do exist, for problems that exist with respect to investigations that don't follow the proper course of action.
I guess I'd go back to Mr. Saini's point that perhaps this was rushed. I get it. I've seen colleagues in the previous Parliament who were up early and had to get something out the door fast, and it may not have been as great as they would have hoped.
If we're all acknowledging that it's bad and we'll fix it later, why don't we just acknowledge that there are problems with it and...? We've gone past the point. We tried to hit pause on this because industry in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, industry that is trying to make this planet a better place.... Mr. Longfield is right when he says they're for-profit companies, but they're for-profit companies trying to do the right thing, trying to be green, trying to be part of recycling and trying to make things better, because that's what Canadians want. When we put out that blue bin, we want to know that it's being done properly.
We don't want to see waste exported. We don't. I think we're all in agreement on that.
My former member of provincial parliament and Mr. Baker's former colleague in the legislature, a gentleman by the name of Jim Bradley—I want to get his name in the record—was a member of provincial parliament in St. Catharines for 41 years. He was the minister of the environment in the 1980s who brought in the blue box program in Ontario.
This is something I'm excited about—he was a mentor to me—and I know St. Catharines is excited about and Canadians are excited about. They want to be part of that and they want to do more. If we're going to create issues, if we're going to create problems, and if we're going to create a mechanism of enforcement that's laughable, where the committee's message back to the parliamentary secretary is, “Go speak to the minister to fix the mess we created”....
It's unbelievable, Mr. Albas. That argument is unbelievable. I haven't heard anything so interesting, to put it mildly, in my five and a half years here: “It's a mess and we'll fix it later, maybe, possibly, and hopefully it will be before it starts going through the court system, before someone gets charged—or no one may ever get charged, because the view is that the enforceability is zero. We'll count on the good graces of Canadians, because 99% of them will do the right thing.”
It's weird. I don't hear that when we discuss issues of criminal justice reform: “Oh, Canadians are good. They'll do the right thing.” [Technical difficulty—Editor] necessary, and we won't tie back our amendments to the Criminal Code into sections that will deal with the level of enforcement.
It really just seems to me, in this interaction, how concerning this piece of legislation is...or maybe it's just acknowledgement that “It won't do anything, but we'll get a 'win'. We can try to convince Canadians that we're tough on the environment. Don't listen to our party members and what they have to say. We're tough on the environment. We're going to get things done. We have a plan—maybe.”
We've been hearing about this plan now for a few years going back. I appreciate that there's a desire for enforcement, but there wasn't a desire to look into how that works.
I don't know. Mr. Saini's point about perhaps its being rushed isn't an insult against the author of the bill, but that's what it seems, that we have a piece of legislation—I've used this analogy before—that is well-intentioned legislation written on the back of a napkin, and an acknowledgement by the opposition that it has serious issues. There's no desire to fix those issues and no desire to hit pause. There's just a desire to push ahead.
I get “The government's opposed, let's stick it to them.” But why are we sticking it to the government if that means people will potentially lose their jobs, it creates uncertainty and it might create unnecessary litigation in our court system and lead to tie-ups there? That's if it even makes [Technical difficulty—Editor].
Maybe he can come down one day and I'll take him for a ride on the QEW. To go back to the analogy I gave—I didn't reach this part of my point—despite the view of Canadians, I think the average speed seems to be well in excess of 120 kilometres an hour. My colleagues from Ontario can chime in there. Again, in the absence of enforcement on a regulatory offence, you get some creep in there. Canadians want to be safe on the QEW. They want to do the right thing, but at the end of the day...why?
Why are we doing this? This is shocking.
I guess Ms. Collins has her hand up, so maybe I'll come back to it after Ms. Collins speaks.
This is shocking.
I just want to make a comment on the schedule. Schedule 7 of the bill is called the “List of Plastic Waste”, but we've heard from a lot of witnesses that there are entries on that list that are not typically considered plastics. There are certain chemicals that may be used for other reasons but that have been captured on that list.
Somebody who raised that point was Bob Masterson from the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, who pointed out that the list contains ethylene, which is a feedstock, not a plastic waste. In fact, it is a gas at room temperature. We can see that there are issues with some of the listings.
Also on the list are styrene, acrylonitrile and butadiene, which are not typically considered plastic. I think the list was not carefully drafted and could pose a serious problem for administration and enforcement of the bill. Also, obviously if chemicals are being used for different purposes but are captured incorrectly on that list, that would pose a huge problem for industry. They'd have to use the chemical for one thing and not use the chemical for something else.
In looking at the Chemistry Industry Association's input, I think it's very important that it be recognized that you're dealing with chemicals that are extremely important in the production of certain things. We have to be careful. Schedule 7 does not reflect the sort of in-depth review that we should be doing to make sure we don't inadvertently put a chemical on the list that shouldn't be there.
Thank you, Chair.
It answers my question. I guess I'll continue, though, on my point with respect to enforceability.
Again, the more we hear about this, I don't see how, if someone is charged, this won't be a massive fight and unnecessarily clog up the court system. We already know it's flawed. I appreciate the opposition saying that we can just fix it later. That's what the point of this is, and we're now so far down this road.
I apologize if it was a rhetorical question. I genuinely am looking for an answer to what we are doing. If the opposition is so keen on passing a flawed piece of legislation, which it is known cannot be enforced or won't be enforced because of the legal complexities and the hope from Mr. Albas that everyone will be good—they promise, probably, maybe....
From the industry we hear that this is going to lead to uncertainty, uncertainty in terms of the regulations and uncertainty in terms of enforcement. What are we hoping to achieve here with this bill? If it's uncertain as to its goals, if it's uncertain as to its enforcement, what's the goal? Why are we rushing this unnecessarily?
I appreciate Ms. Collins saying that we could have proposed amendments. We look at this and see it as a flawed piece of legislation. I don't know if I appreciate Mr. Albas's point to just fix it months down the road when we deal with this, and “Mr. Bittle, you march down to speak to and tell him to fix the mess that this committee has created.” I don't think that's the role of a parliamentary secretary, but perhaps it will be. Should this bill pass, I'll probably have to go back and report that there is a mess that may need to be cleaned up.
Again, with legislation at a standstill in the House of Commons [Technical difficulty—Editor].
No one has answered the enforceability question. I'd be happy to hear from Mr. Albas or Ms. Collins. I hope there's a better answer than that the government can bring amendments months down the road once we've let the horse out of the barn. I'm sorry if that's an agriculture reference, Mr. Albas, in an environment committee meeting.
This is fundamental. People's jobs are on the line here. That's an argument I've heard from Mr. Albas in the House of Commons before on different pieces of legislation. He has been impassioned about that. It seems to be absent here. Again, to get that political win for reasons, I guess.... It's truly bizarre where we are at this moment.
I'm disappointed I wasn't able to participate in earlier debate on this bill, but I'm really disappointed that we were not given the opportunity to hit pause on this, knowing what this committee heard, knowing what we heard from officials. Again, everyone wants to do better on plastics, including, I'm sure, the industry, but to subject them to this, to subject the court system to this, to create that level of uncertainty.... Who is this fair to?
It's not going to lead to an improvement. I'm sure it's a win for the householder, and that's great, but when the rubber meets the road, I'm sure we can tell our constituents that we had this political win, but it's not a win for the environment. It's not a win for the justice system. It's just a bill. It's just a piece of paper. What's the point? It's a potentially dangerous piece of paper if it's going to cost jobs at the expense of not being enforceable.
My mind is blown here at this committee. Again, I appreciate everyone's genuineness of wanting to improve things, but at what cost? What's the cost of the harm that this bill may potentially bring? I don't think that question has been answered by anyone.
Again, it's hurry up and pass it. , please fix it later. We won't let you pass it through the House of Commons, but we want you to fix it later and we'll blame you for not fixing it. We'll blame you for not enforcing it properly, even though officials have raised red flags about it.
I look forward to the questions in question period, should this bill pass down the road. Not getting into our time machine here, but the ghost of question period future may be here to say, “Why isn't the government enforcing this legislation passed by Parliament that doesn't allow for enforcement?” I'm looking forward to that one. That one's going to be glorious when it comes. I see Mr. Albas nodding. I look forward to him leading that question in question period.
These issues have been raised. It worries me that there isn't a concern from the opposition on this. Again, if it's confusing, if it's unenforceable then what have we accomplished? I hope your householders are great and this fits well onto the front page in terms of what everyone wants to see, because the harm may be real.
] multiple times expressed concern over this. Industry has expressed concern.
I think of myself as a managing director of a business where I had to fill in an environmental report to the board of directors every year. The board of directors in England had to know that I was complying with all laws, that I was actually tracing where shipments were going, that they were being handled properly and that the waste disposal companies that we had under contract were delivering according to environmental standards. I couldn't sign that paper with this type of legislation because I don't know.
The definitions are moving. The list is a list that we can change later. One of our witnesses said that they did not know where this list came from and that this is certainly not the list that the Basel Convention is following. We have this fictitious group of products—some are plastic, some are gases, some aren't either—and trying to enforce that....
Years later, I was on the solid waste management committee at the City of Guelph. We had contracts with other countries and other jurisdictions to share waste that we could use as a resource. We had contracts in place. What happens to those contracts? Now the waste management committee at the City of Guelph needs to, instead of shipping on a contract to recycle, put it in the ground. We don't have the landfill capacity. We've had testimony that we have a landfill capacity that will be maxed out in many communities by 2030. Now we're putting legislation in place to accelerate that.
As for the clip of “the Liberals don't care about waste and don't care about plastics”, we deeply care. We need to have legislation that is enforceable and that meets the recycling objectives that the world has. This, on the back of a napkin...and change it later? I'm with Mr. Bittle. Putting my name on this report.... At least we have testimony I can refer to that says, “This was a terrible piece of legislation that we're going to try to fix later. I tried to make my points but we didn't have the votes in committee. The votes came from the NDP, the Bloc and the Conservatives. They weren't Liberal votes.” I can count votes and I know where this is going.
There are real-world consequences on the businesses that are going to be affected by this legislation, as well as every municipality in southern Ontario that's shipping waste across the border. We're not making friends with this legislation and rightly so, because we're not objectively looking at this in terms of meeting the plastics diversion targets that we all have.
I'm very disappointed. I'm disappointed in the committee, disappointed in the politics that's going on, but mostly I'm disappointed because we didn't listen to the voice of industry. We shut that down. We didn't call on witnesses from municipalities. We shut that down. We tried to get the Federation of Canadian Municipalities involved. We rushed this report and the result is that we have a report that's really not a good report.
I'm disappointed, but I've had my say and that's on the record.
Thanks very much, Chair.
I want to weigh in on the proposed amendment by Ms. Saks. I think it makes a lot of sense.
It really looks like Conservative members in particular are determined to push this bill through. I know it's from a Conservative MP. They're determined to push it through the committee, despite the serious issues that have been raised by government officials and that have been raised by people in the waste-processing and recycling sector, who would bear the responsibility for actually making sure that we can process our waste if this bill were to pass and come into effect. I would at least hope they would give the government reasonable time to make those corrections that Mr. Albas was saying need to be made to the bill.
I think there are a number of other things that need to be corrected. The schedule needs to be amended because there are things that aren't plastic listed on the schedule. We've heard from officials about the need to amend regulations or update regulations.
The government members of the committee, including me and others, have tried to underline some of the concerns that have been raised by the sector that's responsible for waste processing and recycling across Canada, through our references and summarizing of the letters that our committee received objecting to the bill and pointing out the consequences. The government would have to undertake regulatory changes to make sure there was clarity for that sector and for the enforcement authorities.
There's another thing that we've talked about in previous meetings. Today we haven't spent as much time on it, but in previous meetings members of this committee asked officials what the implications of this bill would be for waste processing in this country. We heard that a tremendous amount of the products that currently are exported for processing would essentially have to go into landfills, which, first of all, is impractical because we have a landfill capacity problem in most provinces. Provinces weren't consulted on this, but even before consulting them we know that landfills across Canada, in many provinces anyway, have very limited capacity. In Ontario I think we will max out in about 10 years, and it takes five to 10 years just to build a landfill, to permit it, regulate it, construct it, etc., and make it available to process waste. That's the first thing.
The second thing is that I don't know how to explain why we would pass a bill that would allow plastics to go into a landfill when they could potentially be recycled, which is what the current process allows for. Even though they have to be exported, they get processed.
The reason I'm raising all this is to say that these are the kinds of flaws that exist in this bill. These are the kinds of issues that we've heard from witnesses and officials need to be resolved, clarified or better defined.
I think Ms. Saks presents an amendment that's quite reasonable and practical, which is designed to give the government time to fix the bill, to fix the regulations to ensure that they conform and to make sure that we have the capacity to actually implement this.
The last point I'll make is that, at the end of the day, we're the environment committee and we're here to protect the environment. What we've heard from folks, including officials, is that this bill, if it were to pass in its current state, would potentially have plastic waste, some of which could have been recycled, sitting in landfills. That's not protecting the environment. That's damaging it.
I'm disappointed about that. I'm disappointed that this bill has come this far along. I do not think we should allow it to pass, but if that's the will of the opposition members, then I think, at the very least, they should give the government time to make the necessary adjustments to compensate for some of these flaws and problems.
[Technical difficulty—Editor] amendment, I am a little bit concerned. The bill is a tiny step in the right direction. I would have liked to see it strengthened. Mr. Bittle asked why we are passing it if it has gaps. I'll be voting in favour of it because I'd rather have a small step in the right direction than no step when it comes to stopping the export of plastic waste to countries like the Philippines, Cambodia and Malaysia, where Canadian waste is endangering ecosystems and human health.
We could have had a big win for the environment, a big win for protecting human health, but the Liberals voted against my motion to strengthen the bill. It's disappointing but it's not surprising, since they have voted against even the small step that this bill takes.
If members legitimately have concerns about the bill and want it strengthened, then they should make amendments to strengthen it. It's clear that the Liberals do not want to strengthen the bill. They didn't propose any amendments except for this one, to delay. Instead, they've spent committee reading letters into the record, speaking at great length, which I can only interpret as filibustering. They're not speaking about the need to address the issue of exporting waste to countries that don't have the infrastructure to deal with it, but reiterating again and again the concerns from the plastics industry. It's just surprising to me that it seems [Technical difficulty—Editor].
I'm not wholly opposed to Ms. Saks's amendment, but I am concerned about the delay.
We have Mr. Albas's amendment. You know what? I think at this point we need in writing Ms. Saks's amendment as amended by Mr. Albas.
Ross, can you write it out for us and send it to us? Then we can have it on paper. We can have Ms. Saks's amendment as amended by Mr. Albas. Why don't we wait for that?
In the meantime, let me write down who is on the speakers list, not that we are going to get to everyone tonight. We have Mr. Bittle, Mr. Baker, Ms. Saks, Mr. Saini.
I'm just going to wait for.... I don't know if Ross has had....
Okay, so next meeting.... We're not going to get to vote on this tonight, but it would be good to have it on paper. In fact, we could have it on paper in both official languages because we'll have time to translate it.
Are there any thoughts on when the next meeting should be? We're not going to debate this. I'm just getting some input.