Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to speak in the House in order to share what I believe is necessary to truly fight climate change, reduce greenhouse gases and protect the environment.
I thank my colleague from York—Simcoe for his work on the environment. In a way it is reassuring to see members of the Conservative Party truly concerned about the environment.
That being said, we see that, like his party, Bill C-204 is somewhat ineffectual. In fact, it shows that, regrettably, the Conservative Party does not want to stick its neck out when it comes to the environment, likely to not upset their base in western Canada.
The points I want to raise in this intervention show that the transition to green energy is not only essential, but may provide an extraordinary opportunity to create wealth and jobs. It is something to keep in mind for our friends in western Canada for whom the federal government would do well to do everything it can to protect thousands of jobs by steering them to a low-carbon economy.
Make no mistake: This bill is very important. Of course the Bloc Québécois supports a bill that prohibits the export of plastic waste for final disposal. Exported plastics destined for recycling should be properly sorted and labelled and definitely traceable. They should not be used for fuel in foreign countries, nor should they ever end up in the environment.
However, it would be utterly dishonest to not push this a bit further. As important as it is to prohibit the export of waste, we need to re-examine how we produce things in the first place, especially certain single-use products. Let me make this perfectly clear. We need to rethink the life cycle of materials in our economy. If the government really wants to take action on this issue and walk the green talk, it should transfer funds unconditionally—there can be no conditions whatsoever—to the provinces that, like Quebec, are already implementing a circular economy strategy and extended producer responsibility.
The federal government must act now to give Quebec recycling companies the means to recycle more complex plastic products. It appears that the limitation of Bill C-204 is that it does not go far enough. It does not address the fundamental problem, which, I believe, is how we produce things in general to ensure that we reduce our waste.
There is a very real and urgent need to reduce our production and consumption of single-use plastics. When I said that we need to rethink how materials circulate, it is important to understand that we need to transition to a circular economy. As a formality, let us take a little look back at what the circular economy is all about.
In short, it is a way to produce, trade and consume goods and services by optimizing the use of resources at all stages of the life cycle of goods and services. In a circular logic, the goal is therefore to reduce the environmental footprint while contributing to the well-being of individuals and communities. The circular economy has two main objectives: to rethink our methods of production and consumption in order to use fewer resources, and to protect the ecosystems that generate them.
How can we optimize resources that are already circulating in our societies?
There are three steps: using the products more frequently, extending the lifespan of the products and their components and giving new life to resources.
The circular economy proposes a number of strategies and business models that optimize the use of resources as long as we give priority to the shortest and most local routes. Whether from an economic, social or environmental perspective, the circular economy has many advantages and positive spinoffs. It makes it possible to create wealth by giving value to our raw materials, keeping our raw materials here, promoting the local economy and establishing successful companies.
The circular economy acts as a lever of economic growth by promoting the development of new business models and environmentally friendly technologies and products. That is a sustainable solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental impacts of production and transportation.
In short, giving value to our raw materials at every step of their life cycle is a win-win situation. One person's waste can be transformed into useful material for others. For example, in Quebec, glass powder can replace up to 30% of the cement used in concrete thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and providing a great use for recycled glass.
Quebec has already committed, through RECYC-QUÉBEC and its recycling companies, to implement a production, exchange and consumption system based on the circular economy model. The federal government must provide more money to Quebec and the provinces to encourage them to do more. These initiatives are beneficial at all levels.
It is a cycle. We need to produce less and transform our waste into new products. We need to give them a second life here in Quebec and Canada instead of sending them overseas to be disposed of. The government has some responsibility here.
One way to produce less waste is to produce less single-use plastic.
This Liberal government had promised to ban single-use plastics, but that promise was deferred because of the pandemic. However, this pandemic has shown we must act urgently, as it has led to increased use of single-use plastics, despite the government's promise to ban then in 2021.
The list of COVID-19 plastic products, such as surgical masks, gloves, visors, disinfecting wipes and cutlery for takeout meals, has reversed the trend towards banning synthetic polymers.
In June 2019, Ottawa announced a plan to ban single-use plastic products in 2021. The ban unfortunately covers just six products: plastic bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and food packaging made from hard-to-recycle plastics. That is all well and good, but there are a number of other products missing from the list. We are still far from the goal of achieving zero plastic waste by 2030.
I have to say that the Liberals' environmental initiatives are utterly inconsistent. The Prime Minister had the gall to announce millions of dollars to help protect biodiversity around the world only to authorize, just a few hours later, 40 exploratory drilling projects in a United Nations-recognized ecologically or biologically significant marine area.
To make matters worse, Ottawa also chose to expedite project approvals by abolishing the environmental assessment process in place up until now. Ironically, this is happening at the start of what the United Nations has named the decade of ocean science for sustainable development and at a time when there is a collective awareness dawning that 2021 is the year when we must not miss the boat on environmental protection. With announcements such as these, I can say that my planet is suffering.
This year, the current government has completely missed the boat when it comes to the environment. It had the opportunity to initiate a true green shift by making massive investments in the energy transition away from oil with money allocated for the economic recovery. It did not do so. It has understood nothing. The current health crisis and the environmental crisis are not mutually exclusive. Our government's failure to take action on the environment over the past decades and this pandemic are intertwined. We must recognize this and take action now.
The pandemic, just like increasingly mild winters, is a sign that nature is changing. This week, in the month of January, the temperature was -3°C in the Gaspé. Not only is there a connection between COVID-19 and nature, but the political decisions we are making connects them more closely. Failure to take action on the environmental front will lead to a world where potential epidemics will be part of day-to-day life. The issue is how will our societies manage these threats.
The problem is that this government is inconsistent. On the one hand, it is promising to plant two billion trees in 10 years; on the other, it is investing billions of dollars to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline. It wants to fight climate change, but continues to invest millions of dollars in oil projects. In March 2020, this very government stated with a straight face that the pipeline was consistent with the plan to fight climate change in Canada. This Liberal government does not see the environmental disconnect between expanding the oil industry and meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets. I am not making this up.
Non-recyclable plastic ends up in our waterways, decomposes, and ends up in our air and our food. This poses serious threats to human health. We have to think about the long-term impact of an excessive amount of plastic.
Until now, the government has rejected the idea of banning the export of plastic waste. It has opted for exporting plastic to be recycled. However, in June 2019, before being elected, the Liberal member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie said he was concerned about exporting plastic. He said the following:
In some cases, it is recycled, but not the way we might think. We know that China will use some of that plastic as fuel to meet its high energy needs instead of using other types of fuel.
The government's argument that we must not prevent materials from being recycled abroad does not hold water. The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie has acknowledged that the current situation is akin to shipping our problems elsewhere. We can and, more importantly, we must do better. I sincerely hope that he will be able to convince his government of this.