On Oct. 3, the house completed second reading of Bill 91.
- Speaker, this legislation is complex. No legislation is going to be perfect, but it’s clear to me that we can’t go backwards in this case, that we must work with all members of this House to send this legislation to committee, to hear from people across this province and the stakeholders across Ontario to work out the kinks in the legislation and get it right.
- Another welcomed part of this act is to finally focus attention on the industrial, commercial and institutional sector, because we all know it is a sector that is mired in very low recycling rates. Only 13% from this sector is recycled, and that’s shameful. Designating materials in the ICI sector will help elevate those diversion rates and get us going in the right direction.
- That’s why we’re focused on this legislation: to make sure that industry producers actually take responsibility for the full cost, the real cost, of the package and the product that they deliver. We must move to a model of extended producer responsibility. This means that producers must take the disposal cost into consideration when they create a project. It’s that simple.
- Internalizing the cost creates a number of benefits that make the producers more responsible for the products they bring to market, leading to more innovation, more environmentally friendly products and less cost for consumers, municipalities and municipal taxpayers.
- Integrated pricing will help reduce consumer confusion and ensure that the environmental costs of products stay with producers and are not passed on to municipalities and taxpayers. That’s why it’s so important that Bill 91 actually acknowledges the municipal role in the collection of solid waste.
- There is a legitimate concern amongst producers that a mandated municipal role could unduly hinder the individual producer responsibility framework that makes producers responsible for some costs that they can’t individually control; in this case, the obligated contracts with municipalities. This is why the determination of collection fees by the new Waste Reduction Authority must be fair and must be transparent. This tension between producers and municipalities is something that will have to be dealt with…
- Moving on, we are happy to see consideration of disposal bans in Bill 91. Disposal bans have been used in places like British Columbia and Nova Scotia. They can be an effective tool for preventing recyclable material from going to landfill, and they can promote the innovation and investment in waste reduction that we need.
- The legal text of the bill is vague, and it’s unclear whether it will achieve the objective of waste reduction. There will be significant delays while regulations are developed. Considering that a significant amount of consultation has taken place before this bill, the rate of this transition seems to be quite slow.
- One of the most clearly articulated concerns that I’ve heard is the concern that the framework created by this bill will put producers and municipalities at odds with one another. Municipalities have raised concerns about the complexity and burden of having to negotiate hundreds of thousands of agreements with producers and intermediaries, and producers are concerned that they do not have the freedom to choose a service provider and yet they must meet the designated material management obligations.
- Another point of concern is the lack of vision for this bill. Bill 91 seems to have lost the vision of zero waste that the government has spoken about in the past. Bill 91 doesn’t mention the aim of achieving zero waste or the goal of protecting the environment and human health.
- Bill 91 also doesn’t recognize the importance of the hierarchy of the three Rs: to reduce, reuse and recycle. As such, it doesn’t give priority to waste reduction, nor does it encourage higher orders of recycling that promote the best use of a material.
- Adding clear definitions of waste reduction, reuse, recycling and disposal would also strengthen this act. There is widespread concern about the lack of specifics in Bill 91 when it comes to monitoring and enforcing high standards of waste management and recycling services. Bill 91 does not clearly indicate that the Waste Reduction Authority has the authority to monitor or enforce standards in these services.
- RCO, the Recycling Council of Ontario, has also highlighted this as a problem. They suggest that “the WRA include provisions that assign government responsibility to establish minimum operational standards for each of the targeted products/materials designated under the legislation through regulation and add a role for the Waste Reduction Authority to manage an auditing program that monitors compliance against those standards. The WRA should also establish a registrar of public and private service providers to track compliance and provide a directory to obligated producers to assist them in managing their liability.”
- Another concern that has been raised centres around the effectiveness and transparency of the Waste Reduction Authority. Is it the right approach for the Ministry of the Environment to transfer enforcement powers to a new authority that ensures compliance of producers and recyclers, or is this enforcement better done by the ministry itself?
- A further question is whether the Waste Reduction Authority will have the resources to monitor and audit compliance of waste diversion practices and have an adequate number of inspectors with sufficient authority to conduct inspections.
- Some observers have suggested that the Waste Reduction Authority, as constituted under Bill 91, is not sufficiently open or accountable. They suggest that it should be placed under the freedom-of-information act and that it should be subject to review by a parliamentary committee, the Environment Bill of Rights and the Ombudsman Act.
- Bill 91 also does not seem to address the lack of uniformity of recycling services across Ontario. This challenges how governments will encourage the expansion of designated materials that are collected.
- Bill 91 does little to work with other provinces or the federal government to set timetables that would reduce packaging.
- We need to make sure that we do not simply just recreate the problems that we have right now, where intermediaries have increased costs and fees for consumers and evaded accountability. By introducing the role of intermediaries in the bill, there is a danger that individual producers may be able to continue to off-load responsibility to third party bodies, and there is also a danger that the recognition of intermediaries will lead us down the road to the privatization of waste collection services, that it will undermine standards, accountability and convenience for families.
- This bill does not seem to do enough to ensure that producers are responsible for the waste produced by all the products in all sectors and to all clients in all regions of Ontario. Producers must be responsible for all the products and packaging that they sell, regardless of where it’s sold, who the consumer is or where it’s disposed. Producers who sell in remote markets must be responsible for the cost of collecting and recycling those goods.
- I hope it’s clear from my remarks that there is a lot of hard work ahead of us but that New Democrats are here and ready to get to work on this.
- As I mentioned yesterday, I think it’s an opportunity for all of us to work together as legislators on a specific piece of legislation, and where there is need for improvement, we will have that improvement.
- One of the reasons that we chose a Waste Reduction Authority was that that authority, of course, would be financed by those who actually produce the waste in the first place, the products that eventually have to be dealt with in the first place.
- I think there are details that the member has appropriately pointed out that will be dealt with at the time of committee consideration. I’ll be interested in both the parties’ presentations at that time in committee, and their suggestions on how the bill can be improved, because I’m not aware of any legislation that has come forward that is absolutely perfect.
- The industrial, commercial and institutional sector is not in the act; it’s in the strategy. Disposal bans would be under the Environmental Protection Act, so the government doesn’t need Bill 91 to introduce bans.
After general comments from MPPs, second reading debate was deemed adjourned.
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