Guilbeault delays plastics registry until 2025, amid transition to ‘net-zero’ economy

‘Canadians expect the government to take action to reduce plastic waste and pollution,’ said Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. The federal plastics registry remains a go in light of a Federal Court decision outlawing the plastics ban as ‘too broad’ and ‘unconstitutional.’

Guilbeault delays plastics registry until 2025, amid transition to ‘net-zero’ economy
The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick
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The Trudeau Liberals postponed their plastics registry until after the next general election, pending an appeal of a recent Federal Court decision.

“Canadians expect the government to take action to reduce plastic waste and pollution,” Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Thursday. “We are delivering on our commitment.”

On December 30, the feds quietly announced the requirement of resin manufacturers and hundreds of finished plastic goods to report to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) new plastics regulator.

It would require producers to report annually on the quantity and types of plastic they place on the Canadian market, how that plastic moves through the economy, and how it is managed. 

However, a Government Notice extended the deadline for mandatory registration to September 29, 2025 at the earliest, after the next general election.

“The Registry requires plastic resin manufacturers, producers of plastic products and service providers to report each year on the quantity and types of plastic they put on the Canadian market and how that plastic moves through the economy,” said a Department of Environment statement. “This tool will provide Canadians including innovators and decision makers with reliable data that will identify opportunities for further action to reduce plastic waste and pollution.”

Guilbeault’s lawyers are currently appealing a 2023 Federal Court decision that struck a “toxic” blacklisting of plastic items as unscientific and unlawful. They can only regulate "toxic" substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, such as straws, grocery bags and takeout containers.

Federal Court Justice Angela Furlanetto last November 16 ruled the sweeping order, which barred six single-use plastics, was overly broad and unconstitutional. 

“Evidence available to the cabinet did not support the finding that all plastic manufactured items are toxic,” she wrote. It inappropriately listed plastic goods on the same “toxic” list as asbestos, lead and mercury.

Despite the ruling, the ban on single-use plastics still lists it as a Schedule One toxin alongside asbestos and lead.

“Not every plastic manufactured item has the potential to create a reasonable apprehension of harm,” wrote Justice Furlanetto. “This is different from examples such as lead.”

The Court also upheld arguments by the Government of Alberta and Saskatchewan, claiming the cabinet order stepped into provincial jurisdiction on waste management, a provincial responsibility. 

At the time, a joint statement by Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz endorsed the decision to rule the cabinet order as "unconstitutional."

They considered the order a threat to their $18 billion petrochemical economy, and to "the balance of federalism."

“The ubiquity of plastic in society means most businesses and organizations will use plastic manufactured items and will be under provincial jurisdiction,” wrote Justice Furlanetto.

The court also ruled that "the provinces are not subordinate to the federal government,” stressing the importance of cooperative federalism. “It contends that a federal head of power cannot intrude on 'provincial legislative competence,’” reads the statement.

"We urge them to not appeal this decision, and to immediately delete 'plastic manufactured items' from Schedule 1 of the current Canadian Environmental Protection Act so as to avoid further need of legal action by Alberta and other provinces."

A decision by the Federal Court of Appeal is pending, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

On January 10, Smith called the ban “nonsensical.”

“We rely on plastics and the products we use every day from clothing to sporting equipment to vehicle parts, cell phones and medical equipment,” she said. 

“Why does Ottawa think these products are bad?”

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