moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, York—Simcoe is a great riding, the soup and salad bowl of Canada.
It is a privilege to rise in this House and speak once more to Bill C-204, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, final disposal of plastic waste. I am very grateful to my colleagues who have supported this proposed legislation and who worked to study and improve it over the last few months. I am also greatly appreciative of the contributions of the many experts, advocacy groups, industry organizations and other interested Canadians who offered their insight and expertise on Bill C-204 and the issues it will address.
It has been 462 days since I first introduced Bill C-204 in this chamber. We have lost a lot of time already. The impacts of plastic waste remains a significant and pressing concern here in Canada and around the world. Over time, discarded plastic breaks down, and if not dealt with properly, it ends up contaminating our lakes, oceans and rivers. It also threatens our ecosystem with drastic implications for wildlife and our natural environment.
Canada has both a national and global responsibility to step up and show leadership to address the impact of plastic waste. Sadly, under the government, we are doing the exact opposite. One of the greatest contributors to global plastic pollution has been the export of plastic waste from countries such as Canada to other countries around the world. Between 2015 and 2018, almost 400,000 tonnes of plastic waste were exported from Canada to foreign countries. We continue to ship almost 90,000 tonnes overseas every year. This is a serious problem.
Since China banned the import of all types of plastic waste in January of 2018, much of our plastic waste has been sent to Southeast Asia to countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Many of these countries lack the regulatory controls or waste management capabilities to properly dispose of plastic waste imported from Canada and elsewhere. Consequently, it has all too often been disposed of improperly. It is ending up in landfills, dumped in the ocean or burned.
This is having a harmful impact on the environment and on the population of these countries. In Indonesia, for example, the burning of plastic waste has increased the air pollution and caused contamination in the local food chain because of high toxin levels. These toxin levels are linked to serious, long-term health problems, such as cancer, respiratory illness, diabetes and compromised immune systems.
It is no wonder that many of the countries that have been inundated with plastic waste from abroad are now looking to put a stop to these imports. Last year, Malaysia returned more than 150 shipping containers of non-recyclable plastic waste to Canada and other developed countries. The Malaysian environment minister justified this decision by declaring, “we do not want to be the garbage bin of the world”. We all remember this incident.
Globally, many of Canada's counterparts around the world have already recognized how unsustainable and harmful the impacts of exporting plastic waste are. This includes countries that share our strong commitment to open global trade. Both Australia and New Zealand have brought in strict domestic controls on plastics, which include prohibiting plastic waste from their respective countries.
The United Kingdom is pursuing similar legislation, as have every member state of the European Union and 70 other countries. Additionally, 98 countries have ratified an amendment to the Basel Convention, which governs the transboundary movement of waste. This amendment bans the export of plastic waste from OECD countries to non-OECD countries.
Unfortunately, there has been no effort by Canada's Liberal government to address the continuing export of non-recyclable plastic waste and the devastating effects it is having on the environment. The Liberals have refused to establish a prohibition on plastic waste within our domestic laws. They have refused to ratify the comprehensive Basel Convention amendment that would address these issues.
In fact, they actively worked to negotiate a gaping loophole to get around existing international obligations governing the plastic waste trade. This cannot be allowed to continue. Now is the time for Canada to prohibit the export of non-recyclable plastic waste to foreign countries. This is why we are all here today.
Bill C-204 amends the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to prohibit the export of plastic waste for final disposal. The bill establishes this prohibition in a reasonable and effective manner that protects the environment while supporting the many innovative recycling and plastic reuse businesses that operate right here in Canada.
Bill C-204 targets plastic waste exports destined for final disposal. This is a specifically defined term that is clearly established within our domestic regulations and recognized within our international agreements. By doing so, this bill ensures that plastic waste will be recycled, reused, recovered or reclaimed in an environmentally sound manner. Plastic waste will continue to be exported, but plastic waste being exported just to be dumped in a landfill, released into the ocean or burned will no longer be permitted.
Bill C-204 strikes an important and delicate balance. It will put in place an export ban on non-recyclable plastic waste that will protect the environment. It will make sure that when Canadians throw something in their blue bin, it will not end up floating in the ocean halfway around the world. Critically, this would be accomplished in a responsible way that would provide certainty and clarity to Canadian industry. We need to support the many Canadian businesses involved in plastic recycling, which are doing so much to innovate and responsibly manage our plastic waste.
Bill C-204 further strengthens our ability to control what happens to our plastic waste when it is exported. Currently, once plastic waste leaves our borders, we lose much of our ability to ensure it is being handled properly. Most of our plastic waste is being sent to the United States across our shared border, the amount of which has been increasing significantly every year. More than 60,000 tonnes was shipped from Canada to the U.S. annually between 2017 and 2019. Last year that amount increased to over 83,000 tonnes.
Just last fall, the Liberal government negotiated a special agreement between Canada and the United States concerning plastic waste that has been criticized for being both opaque and uncontrolled. This arrangement allows for Canadian plastic waste exports to be shipped onward from the U.S. for final disposal in developing countries.
I ask members to bear in mind that the United States is not a party to the Basel Convention, and plastic waste exported from their country is not subject to the same controls. As such, many environmental groups are very concerned. They believe that Canada's plastic waste exports to the U.S. exploit a significant loophole in our global obligations on plastic waste that directly contravenes international law.
To address these concerns, Bill C-204 prohibits the export of non-recyclable plastic waste to all foreign countries. This ensures that the same environmental standards are applied to exported plastic waste, no matter where in the world it ends up, so that it is disposed of properly and our environment is protected.
Another key element of Bill C-204 is ensuring that the various types of plastic waste exported from Canada are addressed. That is why the list of plastic waste outlined in schedule 7 of Bill C-204 is derived directly from the internationally recognized annex IV(B) of the Basel Convention on plastic waste. Any of the items on the list can be added or removed by the minister through the Governor in Council as necessary.
I note that at committee, the member for Victoria successfully moved an amendment for schedule 7 to include PVC. This constructive addition to the list strengthens Bill C-204 further. I would like to thank the hon. member for her contribution.
Of course, any federal legislation concerning plastic waste will have implications on the provinces and the municipalities. At the local level, Canadians participate in recycling and curbside waste programs with the expectation that their plastic waste will be dealt with properly and in an environmentally sound manner.
Bill C-204 will do this. With the inclusion of subsection 1.4, we can be assured that it would respect all these constitutional jurisdictions. I would like to extend my appreciation to the hon. member for Repentigny for this important addition.
Bill C-204 would apply fines and penalties against anyone who contravenes it, as they are already established in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Unfortunately, there are some bad actors who will try and get around these sorts of prohibitions. These fines will ensure that the law will be enforced and followed.
I have always believed that no one has a monopoly on good ideas, that the best solutions and the right way forward can come from anywhere, and it is becoming more important than ever to work together to make a difference. That is why it was so unfortunate that the Liberal government has opposed, delayed and blocked Bill C-204 at every turn. It opposes this bill, simply because it was sponsored by a Conservative member of Parliament, and continues to ignore the serious issues that it seeks to address.
Last month, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change said, “We need to explore and capitalize on all our options for reducing plastic waste and pollution”, but by opposing Bill C-204, the Liberals are rejecting a meaningful and effective measure to put an end to the plastic pollution of non-recycled plastic waste exports.
The Liberals' inaction on this issue is very unfortunate, but not unexpected. They have called the practice of sending non-recyclable plastic waste to developing countries beneficial. They refuse to see the deficiencies with our current legislation on plastic waste. Worst of all, they refuse to acknowledge the serious impacts plastic waste exports are having on the environment.
It is not just inaction. Unfortunately, during the environment committee study of Bill C-204, Liberal members on the committee repeatedly and actively sought to undermine the legislative process and the will of the House with their conduct. This was very disappointing. Protecting the environment by addressing the export of plastic waste should not be a partisan issue. That is why I am pleased to have the support of the members of the NDP, the Bloc, the Green Party, and all of my Conservative colleagues. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Liberals.
I think Canadians would be very disappointed to see the Liberal government failing to act on the environment yet again. We have seen this many times before. After all, this is the same Liberal government that cancelled the Lake Simcoe cleanup fund, which made such a difference in protecting Lake Simcoe and its ecosystem. It is unfortunate that, after the Conservatives pledged to bring back the cleanup fund, the Deputy Prime Minister showed up in Barrie and said the Liberals would do the same, but as we continue to see, the government is all talk and no action on the environment. The cleanup fund still remains cancelled today.
Canadians want to see real meaningful action to address the issue of plastic waste exports and the impact it is having on the environment. When it comes to the environment, there is no “out of sight, out of mind”. The impacts of plastic pollution affect us all. It is time for Canada to stop exporting non-recyclable plastic waste for other countries to deal with. This can finally be accomplished with Bill C-204, so together, let us make this happen.