That, in the opinion of the House, the government should work with the provinces, municipalities, and indigenous communities to develop a national strategy to combat plastic pollution in and around aquatic environments, which would include the following measures: (a) regulations aimed at reducing (i) plastic debris discharge from stormwater outfalls, (ii) industrial use of micro-plastics including, but not limited to, microbeads, nurdles, fibrous microplastics and fragments, (iii) consumer and industrial use of single use plastics, including, but not limited to, plastic bags, bottles, straws, tableware, polystyrene (foam), cigarette filters, and beverage containers; and (b) permanent, dedicated, and annual funding for the (i) cleanup of derelict fishing gear, (ii) community-led projects to clean up plastics and debris on shores, banks, beaches and other aquatic peripheries, (iii) education and outreach campaigns on the root causes and negative environmental effects of plastic pollution in and around all bodies of water.
Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour for me to begin the debate on my Motion No. 151 for a national strategy to combat marine plastic pollution in our waters and on our shores. Canada has the largest coastline in the world. We have 20% of the world's fresh water and 60% of the world's lakes. This means that we not only rely on clean water, but we also shoulder the responsibility of protecting it.
This motion is the product of many hours of discussion with and between environmental advocacy groups, academics, small businesses, municipalities, first nations and concerned Canadians. I am proud to bring their voices to this debate.
This issue is very important to Canadians. I have heard from impassioned elementary school students, seniors in residences, people on their doorsteps, in coffee shops, at hockey games, at the grocery store check-outs and in town hall meetings. This is in addition to the hundreds of Canadians who have contacted my office directly and indirectly through post cards, emails and social media comments. They all want to see us advance this.
I have personally spoken in the House or at committee more than 50 times on this issue. The time for talking about the state of our oceans has passed. We are here at the eleventh hour of a crisis of our own making and it is time for us as members of Parliament to reach across the floor and do what is right. This is not an issue unique to my riding but has emerged as a major issue within Canada and around the world. As a result, it is public engagement that has given birth to this motion as Canadians have become more aware of the urgency of the marine plastics crisis.
A recent poll conducted by Abacus Data found that one in three Canadians say that plastic in our oceans and waterways is one of the most important environmental issues today. Eighty-eight per cent believe it is an important issue. Over 90% want government to regulate less plastics packaging and a reduction in the amount of plastic used in consumer products. Ninety-six per cent 96% support community cleanups.
In the Great Lakes alone, over 500,000 pieces of microplastic per square kilometre are present. Addressing this is a herculean task and we cannot tackle it alone. The purpose of Motion No. 151 is to initiate a national strategy in conjunction with municipalities, provinces, indigenous communities and small business to reduce the industrial and consumer use of plastics and to remove plastic pollution from our waters.
The motion seeks the development of a strategy to rethink and redesign Canada's plastic economy. The work of former Halifax member of Parliament Megan Leslie and the current member for Windsor West resulted in a ban of microbeads in 2015. Their work demonstrates what we can achieve if we work together.
I am grateful to my friend and colleague the member for Victoria for seconding this motion and for his guidance and encouragement in its preparation. I must also recognize and thank the members for Kootenay—Columbia, Nanaimo—Ladysmith,Saanich—Gulf Islands, andBeaches—East York for seconding the motion and my colleagues from the NDP caucus who have been very supportive of this motion.
Our fisheries rely on a clean marine environment. We know from science that if plastics in our oceans are not removed, they will continue to degrade, eventually entering our ecosystems and food chain. We also know that animals that eat microplastics have lower reproductive success.
The motion draws on the work of Professor Calvin Sandborn and his students at the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre and consists of seven reforms which outline a blueprint for federal action on reducing and removing plastic pollution in our waters.
Ocean plastics is a global environmental challenge and yet Canada has no national policy to prevent plastics from entering our waters and no mechanisms to support the cleanup of existing pollution. Canada needs a strategy that leads us to legislation and regulations to address the crisis of marine plastic pollution. The federal oceans protection plan purports to protect our coasts, although it makes no mention of plastics or marine debris whatsoever. Further, it does not address land-based debris and plastics which account for almost 80% of ocean plastics.
Sadly, Canada lags behind our global neighbours. Forty countries around the world have already created strategies to curb plastic use. Most notably, last week, the European Union passed a landmark resolution to ban single-use plastics by 2021. This starts with cleaning up our oceans. Plastics must be recovered from our waters before they break down and enter the ecosystem and our food chain.
The issue of large-scale marine plastic pollution hit home for me in November 2016 when 35 empty shipping containers spilled from the Hanjin Seattle cargo ship in rough seas near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The people of Tofino, Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Clayoquot, Tla-o-qui-aht, Huu-ay-aht and Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island became quickly aware of large sheets of metal with foam pieces washing onto our shores and breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces. All of these communities rely heavily on a healthy marine environment, and threats like this are taken very seriously.
The immediate concern of local leaders, the business community and local environmental champions was recovery and cleanup as high tides and storm surf tossed logs at the top of our beaches grinding the styrofoam into tiny pieces. Cleaning up hundreds of kilometres of our precious shoreline was top of mind for everyone. The work began immediately. Volunteers with Clayoquot CleanUp, the Pacific Rim chapter of Surfrider, the Ocean Legacy Foundation and legions of local residents were activated. They were joined by many others who travelled to our coast from afar to undertake the monumental task of cleanup.
Regrettably, funds were not made available from the federal government to support their work. It was sweat equity of the highest order. Officials told us that there is a legislative and regulatory void, and our communities were essentially left on their own. Only $72,000 was recovered from the shipping company through the courts through the Canada Shipping Act, but even these funds were not immediately made available. However, the work went ahead with personal risk taken by many volunteers as they collected and bagged several tonnes of debris for eventual pickup.
Eventually, a portion of the expenses incurred in the cleanup were reimbursed, but only $15,000, a fraction of the total cost, was released to one of the environmental groups working on the cleanup. The rest of the money is still sitting here in Ottawa, almost two years later. Our nation owes an ongoing debt of gratitude to the many Canadians that respond in this way when our environment is threatened.
My investigation of this single incident led me to an informal network of environmental non-profits, education institutions, local governments, first nations and individual Canadians deeply concerned about marine plastic pollution. There is no question that the Hanjin Seattle spill and similar threats can be devastating to the local marine environment. They told me that this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Our marine environment is under threat on a global scale. Upwards of 20 million tonnes of debris enters the world's oceans every year. It is estimated that the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute of every day. On average, there are 18,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square kilometre of ocean globally. Eighty per cent of all plastic in the ocean comes from land-based sources. Ninety per cent of plastic in the ocean is microplastics. Ninety-five per cent of single use plastics are only used once and discarded. Global plastic production has doubled in the last 20 years and is expected to double again in the next 20 years.
By 2050, if this trend continues, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. One study found that returning adult B.C. salmon ingest up to 90 pieces of plastic each day. We are finding over two pieces of microplastic in every piece of shellfish from our communities. Each year, plastic litter kills more than one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals, such as turtles, dolphins, whales and seals. Over 260 species of animals have been found to be entangled or killed by harmful marine debris.
Many of the volunteers who took to the beaches after the Hanjin Seattle spill were already well aware of these sad realities, of course. In fact, at the time of the Hanjin Seattle spill, the United Nations was only months away from announcing its clean seas initiative, and Canada was less than a year away from joining it as a voluntary signatory. Since then, barely a day has passed without multiple media reports of new findings about marine plastic pollution, each one more alarming than the last.
Today, the average Canadian high school student knows more about the threat of ocean plastics than most members of the House knew at the time of the Hanjin Seattle spill, only two years ago. Public awareness and consumer engagement is critical. The government is to be congratulated on its recent development of educational tools and curricula on plastic pollution. This is an absolutely critical element of a national strategy.
We need clear, binding targets for the reduction of marine plastics pollution, in collaboration with provincial, territorial, municipal and indigenous governments. We need national standards and best practices to help meet national reduction targets, and we need to incentivize other levels of government to adopt them. Federal leadership is essential, including the coordination and funding of interjurisdictional efforts to meet these targets.
Legislation needs to be identified in a national strategy to address those aspects of this marine plastic issue that are clearly within the federal jurisdiction.
Marine plastic pollution should be placed on the agenda of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, along with a commitment to facilitate technological transfers between governments across this country in order to meet national targets.
A federal commitment to build on Canada's zero plastics waste charter initiative is required to set a global example by fighting marine plastic pollution decisively here at home. A ban on plastic straws should not come at the expense of accessibility. Exceptions should be made in the form of biodegradable plastic straws. Let us all challenge ourselves to look at the world through other lenses to create a more inclusive, accessible and environmentally friendly world.
We need a commitment to measure our progress on marine plastics pollution by developing effective measurement criteria and regularly reporting to Parliament on its progress. The University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre has identified important specific regulatory policies that are also essential elements of a national strategy.
First, single-use plastics make up the most plastic debris on our beaches. We must adopt policies that reduce both consumer and industrial use of single-use plastics. We are seeing Europe take that step. Kenya has banned plastic bags. Cities across North America are taking action and leading.
Second, plastic debris we know ends up in the oceans via storm drains that carry urban runoff to the sea. Our national strategy must reduce plastic discharge from stormwater outfalls. Los Angeles is already implementing that.
Third, microbeads, nurdles, which are pre-production plastic pellets, microfibres shed by synthetic fabrics, degraded plastic particles and polystyrene fragments permeate the marine environment and could pose more risk than larger plastic debris. Our national strategy must reduce microplastic pollution. San Francisco has even banned polystyrene and styrofoam from its docks. Therefore, it is taking leadership.
Fourth, lost or abandoned plasticized fishing and aquaculture gear takes hundreds of years to decompose. Removing ghost gear from our oceans and preventing further gear loss is a crucial element of a national strategy. Washington, Oregon and California have all taken leadership, removing thousands of tonnes of ghost fishing-gear.
Fifth, we require plastic producers to finally take responsibility for the full life-cycle costs of their products and packaging. We need them to internalize cleanup costs that have been borne by individual Canadians or their governments. A marine pollution strategy must extend plastic producer responsibility.
Sixth, the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre observes that tackling marine plastic pollution effectively will require replacing new plastic production with a non-wasteful circular or closed-loop system that reduces overall use and also maximizes reuse. Canada's plastic economy must be redesigned.
Seventh, the University of Victoria study recommends that education, outreach and beach cleanups are of critical importance. Beach cleanups serve as a form of downstream management of marine litter. They engage citizen involvement and contribute to behaviour change. Currently, the great Canadian shoreline cleanup occurs across the country on World Environment Day with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada. However, without question more support is required from all levels of government for beach cleanups throughout the year, not just one day.
Since this motion was introduced a year ago, Canadians across the country have demanded that we take an active role in creating a plastic economy that is sustainable and accountable for the waste that it generates. Support for a comprehensive national strategy that includes meaningful funding to promote the important work already under way that advances plastic reduction policies is coming from municipalities, first nations, environmental groups, churches, corporations and individual citizens.
Lastly, in October, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities passed a nearly unanimous resolution in support of this motion at its annual meeting. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities passed a similar motion with the support of over 90% earlier this year. In my riding alone, bylaws that regulate plastics have been initiated or passed by many municipalities.
In closing, we know that many people are supporting this motion. SumOfUs brought forth a petition with over 120,000 signatories in a matter of a couple of weeks, which we delivered to the minister. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the signatories of those petitions. Their voices matter today. I also need to thank others, like Margaret Atwood, and hundreds of other community champions, schoolchildren, church leaders and just plain folks who have spoken up in support of the motion.
Most importantly, I need to thank those who have been on the ground working on this issue. I thank the communities and organizations that have helped me prepare this motion, including Communities Protecting our Coast from Oceanside, Clayoquot CleanUp, Surfrider Pacific Rim, the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards, Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Island, The Ocean Legacy Foundation, SumOfUs, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre and the Ucluelet Aquarium.