Creation of National Plan to Fight Plastic Waste Gets Full House Support
A motion calling for Canada to create a national strategy to combat plastics pollution received unanimous support in the House of Commons in December, and a standing ovation when the motion passed.
By a vote of 288 to 0, M-151 will now move on to committee for study, and to the ministry of the environment to start work.
Gord Johns, the NDP MP for Courtenay-Alberni who put the motion forward, was floored by the overwhelming support.
“Even a month ago, we didn’t think they would pass it. A year ago, we didn’t think any other party would support it, other than the Greens and the Bloc (Québécois),” he said. “We’ve come a long way.”
He gives full credit to people on the front lines who clean up beaches, educate others about the perils of plastic, and push for change, as well as the 170,000 people who signed a petition supporting the motion, and local governments that did the same.
Introduced last November, the motion calls on the federal government to develop a national strategy to attack the root cause of plastic waste in the ocean, and to help organizations working to preserve coastal communities. Drawing on a report from the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, it presented seven directives to effectively remedy the problem of plastic pollution in our waters:
- Create permanent, dedicated, and annual funding for community-led cleanup projects;
- Reduce and regulate consumer and industrial use of single-use plastics;
- Create a plan to clean up derelict fishing gear;
- Promote education and outreach campaigns on the root causes and negative environmental effects of plastic pollution;
- Extend producer responsibility; and
- Address the root problem and redesign the plastic economy.
While Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson have been pushing against plastics, including at the G7 earlier this year, Johns said Canada hasn’t done enough, particularly in legislating and regulating.
A 2017 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, predicted that by 2050, the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish. By that point, it’s estimated the ocean will contain at least 937 million tonnes of plastic, compared to 895 million tonnes of fish.
Given that Canada has the most lakes in the world and the longest coastline, he said we should be leaders — as stewards of the environment and champions of water protection — but that’s not the case.
“In fact, we’re lagging far behind. So many countries are taking action and showing that it can be done, in ways that still promote a vibrant economy and protect ecosystems.”
The good news is there’s much Canada can do, by learning from jurisdictions that have already taken leadership.
“We need to apply their successes here in Canada,” Johns said.