Waste diversion trail is littered with setbacks

By MPP Toby Barrett

When it comes to landfills and waste management in this province, there is little doubt that this government continues to trip over itself to over-regulate, over-promise and under deliver – leaving all of us to pay for the clean up.

From eco-fees, to failed electronics recycling, to the bait and switch of a promised new Waste Diversion Act, and the ongoing lack of landfill space – Mr. McGuinty’s waste diversion trail is littered with missteps we all end up paying for.

For example, in the case of Edwards Landfill near Cayuga, capacity that is being utilized is often done despite MOE orders for corrective action because of issues of non-compliance.

On Earth Day 2010, April 22nd, then Environment Minister Gerretsen announced pending waste diversion legislation in response to PC Opposition questions:” we look forward to that party supporting our new waste diversion act, which will be introduced in this house within the next four to five weeks.” But, four to five weeks later, there was no bill to support or oppose. In fact, 11 months have passed and the new act is nowhere to be seen.

Not only is this government failing to deliver on promises to divert waste from landfill, it has little idea of how quickly most of Ontario’s dumps are filling up. September’s annual report from the province’s Environmental Commissioner indicated that the landfill inventory monitoring system only contains information about Ontario’s 32 largest landfills of the 1,157 active landfills the Ministry of the Environment identifies.

It was five years ago that the Ontario Waste Management Association told us, “the overall disposal capacity of Ontario landfills has been in decline for many years – capacity consumption has out paced the approval of new capacity.”

Much of the mess government has failed to divert began April 5, 2004, when then Environment Minister Dombrowsky announced her 60 per cent waste diversion from landfill would be fulfilled by 2005 – later delayed until 2008. But now, some three years later, Ontario’s waste diversion rate is only 24 per cent.

Back on July 1st of last year, Mr. McGuinty only further hampered diversion goals by trying to bring in eco-fees – on over 9,000 items – under the shadow of his HST. In two short weeks, vocal opposition forced government to do an about face on the eco tax grab. Now, some seven months after this government’s announced eco-about-face, people still want to know where there money went, and no-one seems to want to tell them.

The Ontario Government’s electronics diversion and associated taxes follow a similar tale of woe. In November, we discovered Ontario’s electronics recycling program collected $44 million in eco-taxes while achieving only two per cent of recycling targets. A mere two per cent success rate at a cost of $44 million dollars. As I told the Legislature, I used to have a goat that could do a better job of recycling than that.

It’s clear the failing results from government’s waste management missteps will continue to pile up as fast as the garbage McGuinty is seemingly unable, or unwilling, to divert.

Ontario needs clear consistent direction on waste diversion and landfill – I regret under this government, as with the promised Waste Diversion Act, that direction will continue to be missing in action.