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N.S. environment minister ignores environment in decision to halt polluter pay

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Photo: Jim Hobbs/flickr

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What a difference a minister makes.

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.

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.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Jim Hobbs/flickr

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