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Prime Minister’s speaking notes for Plastics announcement

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Good morning, everyone.

Before we get into things, I want to take a second to thank Steven Guilbeault – for his introduction, yes, but more importantly, for his leadership.

Steven, as many of you know, has spent much of his life fighting for human rights and environmental responsibility. An incredible activist, he’s never hesitated to share his expertise with Canadians.

Thank you, Steven, for all you do.

As always, it’s a pleasure to be joined by members of our strong local team – including Brenda Shanahan, Sherry Romanado, Michel Picard, and Jean-Claude Poissant – as we share some important news here at McGill’s Gault Nature Reserve.

Since we formed government, we’ve been hard at work implementing forward-thinking policies that will leave the next generation with a cleaner planet.

We’ve brought in a world-leading Oceans Protection Plan. We’re phasing out coal. We’re investing in renewables. We’ve put a price on pollution. We’re investing in public transit.

And today, I’m announcing the next step in Canada’s plan to clean up our environment and leave our kids with a healthier future.

When you ask leading scientists and environmentalists about the pressing environmental issues of today, you’re hearing about one problem more and more often these days. And that problem is plastic pollution.

Every year, Canadians recycle less than 10% of the plastic waste that’s produced across the country – 90% is thrown away.

Those stats are obviously cause for concern. But this is not a uniquely Canadian problem.

Plastic pollution is a global challenge.

You’ve all heard the stories, and seen the photos. And to be honest, as a dad, it’s tough trying to explain this stuff to my kids.

How do you explain dead whales washing up on beaches around the world, their stomachs jam-packed with plastic bags?

Or albatross chicks photographed off the coast of Hawaii, their bodies filled to the brim with plastic they’ve mistaken for food?

How do I tell them that, against all odds, you’ll find plastic at the very deepest point of the Pacific Ocean – 36,000 feet down?

And how do I broach the fact that plastic is finding its way into our bodies, too, as we ingest tens of thousands of microplastic particles every year?

Making sense of this new reality for my kids isn’t a struggle I face alone. People around the world are grappling with this every day.

As parents, we’re at a point where we take our kids to the beach, and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, styrofoam, and bottles. That’s a problem – one that we have to do something about.

And it’s not just that plastic pollutes our rivers and lakes, or washes up on our beaches with every ocean tide. Plastic pollution spoils our streets, and overwhelms our landfills.

Now, plastics have been part of our lives for over a century. They have undoubtedly made life more convenient.

But plastic pollution is becoming a real challenge.

The biggest culprits are single-use plastics – things like plastic grocery bags, coffee lids, and plastic bottles. We all know that these things are easy to produce, and even easier to throw away.

Canadians have taken notice of this trend, and spoken up – they’re tired of seeing their beaches and their parks littered with plastic waste. They’re tired of plastic garbage lining our streets and our shorelines.

Canadians expect us to act now to reduce plastic pollution. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

When Canada hosted the G7 in Charlevoix last year, we put forward an Ocean Plastics Charter, which outlined concrete actions to tackle plastic pollution. This Charter has since been endorsed by 21 countries.

And we’re leading by example here at home, too.

We banned the manufacturing and import of products containing microbeads last summer – these are the little plastic balls that are sometimes found in face wash or shower gel. Plastic that gets rinsed down the drain and into our water systems.

I’m happy to say that Canada’s full microbead ban comes into effect this July 1st.

We’ve worked with provinces and territories to develop the Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste.

And we’re also working closely with the private sector, investing in Canadian businesses that are developing innovative solutions to reduce plastic waste.

Take Copol International in Sydney, Nova Scotia, as an example. As one of the winners of our Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge, Copol International is a forward-thinking business that’s developing biodegradable food packaging.

They have their eye to the future, and we’re proud to support their work.

My friends, Canada is an important player in the larger global movement to reduce plastic pollution.

And now, we take an essential next step with a number of new measures. I’ll happily speak to two of them.

Today, I’m very pleased to announce that, as early as 2021, Canada will ban harmful single-use plastics from coast to coast to coast.

Our approach – including determining which products fall under the ban – will be grounded in scientific evidence, and closely mirror the actions being taken by the European Union and other likeminded countries.

Second, by working with provinces, territories, and industry to establish consistent standards for Extended Producer Responsibility programs across Canada, companies that manufacture plastic products or sell items with plastic packaging will be responsible for the collection and recycling of their plastic waste.

Whether we’re talking about plastic bottles or cell phones, it will be up to businesses to take responsibility for the plastics they’re manufacturing and putting out into the world.

And not only will this be good for the planet, but it’ll result in huge economic gains, too.

Currently, Canadians throw away $8 billion of plastic material every single year. By recycling or reusing these plastics, we can reduce pollution, generate billions of dollars in revenue, and create approximately 42,000 jobs.

This is what it means to innovate for the future, protect the environment, and grow the middle class.

My friends, I want to be able to give my kids the experience I had growing up – swimming in clean water, exploring our parks, and enjoying the great Canadian outdoors.

As the home of the longest coastline in the world, and one-quarter of the planet’s fresh water, Canada has a responsibility to reduce plastic pollution.

Imagine some of your greatest memories – maybe you’re camping or cottaging, canoeing or fishing. Now imagine those memories punctuated by dead birds or fish. Or maybe a pile of coffee cup lids and shopping bags, covering the ground or floating all around you.

That’s the reality for our kids, if we don’t act now. If we want to let our kids be kids, we have to ensure that the environment they’re playing in is clean and safe.

That’s what today is all about.

By banning harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021, and by making companies the ones responsible for recycling their plastic waste, we’re protecting our wildlife and giving our kids and grandkids a cleaner, healthier future.

Once again, thanks for being here. I’m happy to take your questions now.