MP Gord Johns sees ‘tremendous victory’ in battle over marine plastics

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns’s motion to eliminate marine plastic pollution has passed unanimously in the House of Commons.

Johns tabled his private member’s motion, which calls for a national framework to reduce and eliminate plastic pollution in aquatic environments, in November 2017.

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The NDP MP called the unanimous vote a “tremendous victory” for Canada’s oceans and coastal communities.

“The proposed regulatory action is aimed at reducing plastic debris discharge from stormwater outfalls, industrial use of microplastics, and consumer and industrial use of single-use plastics,” Johns said.

Despite Canada having the world’s longest coastline, there is no national policy to prevent plastics from entering the country’s waters, and no mechanisms to clean up the pollution that already exists, he said.

The motion draws on a report by the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre. It calls for annual funding for the cleanup of derelict fishing gear, community-led projects to clean up plastics around water, and education and outreach campaigns on the environmental effects of plastic pollution in and around all bodies of water.

“This is the first step in the journey to rid our oceans, beaches, and shores of plastic and other debris,” Johns said.

Speaking to the motion, North Island-Powell River NDP MP Rachel Blaney said 20 million tonnes of debris enter the world’s oceans every year, with 90 per cent of the plastics found in the ocean being microplastics.

“In fact, if we do not take some serious action by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish if this trend continues,” Blaney said.

“That is something I think every Canadian, and I hope every person on the planet, will seriously start to look at and address in a meaningful way.”

Sean Casey, parliamentary secretary to the minister of fisheries and oceans, added that in Canada, in 2014, only about 11 per cent of plastic waste was recycled.

“It is estimated that about 8,000 kilograms of our own plastic waste ends up as marine litter every year,” he said, adding that the Liberal government supports the motion.

Casey said the Canada-led Ocean Plastics Charter has been endorsed by 11 governments and 19 businesses and organizations worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, and the European Union.

The charter calls for federal governments to set goals to increase the reuse and recycling of plastics and for businesses to address production methods that eliminate waste.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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