Federal Court sides with plastics industry, rejects Environment Minister’s ‘toxic’ designation on plastics, citing overreach and unconstitutionality. Photo Credit: Pexels
The Federal Court delivered a big win to the plastics industry this week – and a big loss for Environment and Climate Change Canada Minister Steven Guilbeault. For several years, the federal government has waged a virtue-signalling war on plastics, banning a number of plastic products such as plastic cutlery, checkout bags, takeout containers and straws at the end of 2022.
This was not enough for the many environmental groups – most of them funded by our tax dollars – who seek to curb the production of plastics in general. The federal government subsequently set a goal of achieving zero plastic waste by 2030, a goal highly likely to join the rest of the Liberals’ climate targets as impractical and unachievable. The federal government also categorized plastic as toxic, which was an absurd categorization of a relatively benign material.
In reaction to this foolish legislation, the industry formed a group called the Responsible Plastic Use Coalition (RPUC) which launched a legal challenge. Their case was predicated on two main issues – first that adding plastic to the Toxic Substance portion of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was unreasonable and an inappropriate designation and second that the Environment Minister’s refusal to have a Board of Review assess the alleged risks of plastic materials was unreasonable.
In addition, the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan joined in the industry’s legal suit stating that the federal government acting in this area was not constitutional as the law falls outside of federal criminal law power. Several so-called environmental organizations also intervened in the matter, siding with the federal government.
The Federal Court agreed on all counts with the industry and provincial governments’ positions. They stated that plastic materials were far too broad to be listed as toxic substances and that this factor meant the law was both unreasonable and unconstitutional. It also found that the federal government had acted outside of their authority and that there was no reasonable case to claim that all plastic materials were harmful. They also noted that plastics were ubiquitous in our society and found in every facet of our everyday lives.
The court awarded costs to the applicants, which unfortunately just means that taxpayers will have to ante up for Minister Guilbeault’s brazen attempts to push sketchy legislation on Canadians. The fact that the environmental groups active in this proceeding are also taxpayer-funded means a double-whammy loss for taxpayers.
The court decision is undoubtedly a big win for the plastics industry and Canadians in general. Plastics are indeed an integral part of our daily lives and often irreplaceable. Can you imagine trying to get through the pandemic without the extensive number of plastic products that are used in medical procedures and to keep food and other items things sanitary? It is a rare consumer product that does not contain some plastic components. Plastic is also often a positive for the environment, such as its use in the auto industry to replace heavier materials and therefore produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. The real issue with plastic is not that it should be eliminated, but that it should be properly recycled, and the plastics industry has made many solid recommendations as to how that can be achieved.
What is also interesting about this court decision is that it is the second time in just a few weeks that a Canadian court rebuked Guilbeault for overreach. About a month ago the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the federal Impact Assessment Act (the “no more pipelines” bill) was not constitutional, which was another big win for Alberta and Saskatchewan, along with all Canadians. This plastics decision could also have implications for other federal legislation that dips into provincial jurisdiction, such as their current so-called Clean Electricity Regulations.
This Liberal government’s overzealous pursuit of virtue-signalling and punitive policies in the name of climate is costing our economy, businesses and average Canadians. A more balanced and cost-effective approach is what should be pursued, but that unfortunately seems unlikely without a change in government. Plastic really is fantastic, and it’s good that the court agreed.
She has published numerous articles in journals, magazines & other media on issues such as free trade, finance, entrepreneurship & women business owners. Ms. Swift is a past President of the Empire Club of Canada, a former Director of the CD Howe Institute, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, SOS Children’s Villages, past President of the International Small Business Congress and current Director of the Fraser Institute. She was cited in 2003 & 2012 as one of the most powerful women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network & is a recipient of the Queen’s Silver & Gold Jubilee medals.