Ottawa to appeal court ruling that overturned order listing plastics as toxic substance

The federal government is planning to appeal a court decision that quashed an order-in-council listing manufactured plastic items as toxic.

Last week, a Federal Court judge ruled that the government’s move to list all plastic items as toxic was “unreasonable and unconstitutional.”

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Justice Minister Arif Virani announced the government’s intention to appeal in a joint statement on Monday.

“Our government intends to appeal the Federal Court’s decision and we are exploring all options to continue leading the fight against plastic pollution,” the statement says.

The move to list plastic items as toxic was a key step that allowed Ottawa to proceed with a ban on six single-use plastic items, including straws and shopping bags.

In her ruling released Thursday, Justice Angela Furlanetto wrote that the category of plastic manufactured items was too broad to be given a blanket toxicity label under federal law.

“There is no reasonable apprehension that all listed [plastic manufactured items] are harmful,” Furlanetto wrote.

Speaking during an unrelated press conference on Monday, Guilbeault said the impact plastic waste has on the environment and human health is “undebatable.”

“We will continue with our strategy to fight plastic pollution. We want to get plastic out of our environment, out of our neighbourhoods,” he said.

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Regulating waste management is generally a provincial responsibility. The government is only able to regulate substances for environmental protection if they are listed as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

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Furlanetto wrote that Ottawa’s decision “poses a threat to the balance of federalism” because it didn’t restrict its regulations to those plastics that have “potential to cause harm to the environment.”

The Alberta government was an intervener on the case. On Thursday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and provincial Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz urged Ottawa not to appeal Furlanetto’s decision.

Schulz provided CBC News with a brief statement reacting to Ottawa’s intention to appeal.

“We will see Minister Guilbeault in court,” she said in an emailed statement.

The case was brought forward by a group of major industrial players in plastics, including Dow Chemical, Imperial Oil and Nova Chemicals. They argued that Ottawa failed to demonstrate it had enough scientific evidence to justify the regulations.

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