Friday, September 5, 2014

We must Act to make polluters pay

What if you went to a public beach, were careful to pick up and take away any trash you created, but the people next to you left a pile of garbage? And what if their excuse was “well, we pay parking fees and taxes that go toward cleaning the beach, so it’s our right to litter”. Would you accept that, or should they get fined?
I know how I feel, and I hope you feel the same: people must be responsible for the cost of cleaning up their own mess. It’s not fair to make us pay, through taxes or other burdens, for the garbage of others. That includes the trash from making and packaging the consumer products we buy.
Yet right now, much of the cost of taking your garbage away from the curb is paid out of general property tax, regardless of how much actual trash you do, or don’t, toss. The same goes for recycling. That means those who make the most waste are subsidized by the taxes of those who make the least. Yet this can easily be fixed, and if Ontario’s Waste Reduction Act is re-introduced and passed, we’ll be well on the way to having waste pay for itself.
Franke James was Banned on the Hill for saying this!
This legislation would replace the much-maligned and ineffective industry-managed “eco fees” we’ve had to pay for several years. It makes good sense for consumers to pre-pay the cost of disposal of the products they buy, and the related packaging. But under the current system, a standard fee applies, with no regard to how much or little waste the particular manufacturer creates, which means no incentive to choose greener producers. So if ACME is wasteful but Zenith is green, you pay the same eco-fee for a TV from either.
Under the new system, ACME will pay for their own wasteful ways while Zenith will save, passing that on to you in the price. Affordable Zenith TVs will fly off the shelves while overpriced ACME ones get dusty. All producers who reduce waste or packaging will have more sales and profit while wasteful ones will dwindle.
Sadly, this Act didn’t pass before the recent provincial election. But on our behalf and at the suggestion of Canadians for Clean Prosperity, last week Barrie’s City Council passed a resolution for the government to re-introduce it. Contact your MPP and add your personal voice to this request.
When polluters get out of paying for their harms, the costs fall on the rest of us, in the form of higher taxes and other financial burdens. Changing the rules to harness the power of competition to make our economy greener will lower our taxes, reduce waste, and spur innovation leading to high-quality jobs right here at home. No more subsidizing pollution and job stagnation! Make polluters pay, so they compete to pollute less!
Oh, and a special nod goes out to Pizzaville Barrie South, who took up my challenge last week and will now be donating pizza for blood donors on Tuesday & Thursday afternoons, joining Toppers who donates Thursday lunch. Hurray for our bloody generous local Barrie businesses!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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