What a difference a minister makes

What a difference a minister makes.

Randy Delorey

Randy Delorey

When he was Nova Scotia’s minister of the environment, Randy Delorey presided over a public consultation process to determine what Nova Scotia should do next about what we discard.

His department received 260 written submissions, the majority of which focused on what environmental bureaucrats like to call “extended producer responsibility,” (EPR) and the rest of us think of as “polluter pay.”

The idea essentially is to shift the financial burden for “end-of-life management of post-consumer products” — don’t you love bureaucratese? —  from hard-pressed municipalities to producers and consumers. We’re talking engine oil, tires, batteries, electronic equipment, hazardous wastes, pharmaceuticals, paper packaging, etc.

The idea isn’t new. European countries began doing it in the early 1990s, and today there are what are called “product stewardship initiatives” all over Europe, in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, the United States and… yes, Canada.

Six years ago, Nova Scotia signed on to a Canada-wide action plan on EPR with the  country’s other provincial environment ministers.

Because we hadn’t followed up, Delorey explained in a March report, “Nova Scotia is missing out on opportunities to offset waste management costs and increase diversion.” He said his department was preparing EPR regulations. Department officials confirmed this summer they were on track to publish them this fall.

And then…

In late July, Delorey was named finance minister.

Andrew Younger

Andrew Younger

His replacement: Andrew Younger. You remember Andrew Younger. As energy minister, he gleefully oversaw the gutting of Efficiency Nova Scotia, the successful, widely praised, independently-funded energy-consumption-reducing organization. In its place he created Efficiency One, a lower-power-rates-and-damn-the-consequences creature from the Liberal party election promises lagoon.

Now, less than two months after his new appointment, Younger is already backing away from his predecessor’s commitment on EPR. Younger didn’t even make the announcement himself; he left that to his gloating media relations allies at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The lobby group, which doesn’t like polluter pay, issued a press release explaining Younger had “met with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business to say that the government has decided to ‘pause’ implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in Nova Scotia.”

Forget public consultations. Forget the environment.

Nice to know who really runs our environment department.

 

***

Andrew Younger’s response (via Facebook at 8:13 a.m. Sept 14)

Hey Stephen,
Just saw your article and thought I’d drop you a note with some information you may have been unaware of.
While CFIB made their own announcement, as I have said in a number of media, they took a lot of liberty with how it was framed. The reality is what Delorey had committed to (in writing) was that EPR for paper and packaging only would be implemented in a timeline of 1-3 years, IF it was approved following consultation. To implement it first would require legislation (which to implement regulations this fall would have required legislation last spring at least, which obviously did not occur).
As well, you may or may not be aware, that the consultation ended up with the various solid waste authorities and other stakeholders having widely different ideas of what EPR would look like and how it would run. Thus, without that issue resolved it actually could not move ahead. To make matters worse, the EPR model which was being considered would basically have exempted most of the largest paper and packing producers.
So what you would have ended up with is a model where a very tiny number of waste producers pay into a system (and pass it onto customers), and property taxpayers (residential, business, etc) continued to also pay for the system. So where it was at showed there would have been little to no difference in actual waste produced or diverted and everyone would have paid more with no additional benefit.
Given that in my view it actually would make more sense to look at the waste system overall and figure out where the real opportunities are to reduce waste.
This was a giant red herring with increasingly evidence stacked up against it. While CFIB is more than welcome to make their pitch, the decision was made long before I met with them on the basis of the consultation and input received. And, as noted at the beginning, the commitment Delorey made was that, if approved, it would be running within three years, something I have said is still reasonable if we can sort out the issues (something I also publicly stated we are working on with all the various stakeholders over the coming months).
All the best
Andrew
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