Removing roadblocks to developing a ‘green’ economy

As much as I like to criticize the Ontario Liberals, I have to say I’m impressed by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s acknowledgement that Ontario must reinvent itself and focus on creating an economy based on sustainable energy projects.
Ontario’s manufacturing jobs are disappearing and they’re not coming back. At the same time, there’s a strong push for sustainable energy projects and the province needs to capitalize on that demand. But if that’s to happen, we need to change our mindset in a number of ways.
There were two recent reports in the GTA media that caught my attention. First, there was the report that recyclables collected in blue boxes in the GTA are being shipped to China where they’re being cleaned, sorted, converted to re-usable materials and then shipped back to Ontario. How counterproductive is that? The article went on to say we simply don’t have the labour force willing to do the dirty work here in Ontario at a competitive cost.
Give me a break. With unemployment rates climbing, surely we have the manpower willing to do this job here at home – granted, at significantly higher wages than Chinese workers are earning. My father runs a unionized plant that competes with non-unionized companies. Obviously, his labour costs are significantly higher than his competitors’. However, he’s ultimately able to provide a cost-competitive product, because they’ve been vigilant about improving efficiency in every aspect of the production process. You can’t tell me Ontarians lack the ingenuity to make it feasible to manage our own recyclables here at home. Yes, our labour costs would be higher but surely that can be offset by reducing costs elsewhere. Start by eliminating the cost of shipping containers full of junk to China and back in the first place.
I know that sorting and cleaning recyclables is not a glamorous job, but you’re out of work you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to eek out a living. I know this. When I first moved to Calgary, I was up at 4 a.m. every morning delivering newspapers I felt I should be writing for. I’m pretty sure if we have the facilities here at home, we can find the workforce that would be grateful to have a job to report to each morning.
The second article was similarly discouraging. Apparently, we’re sending truckloads of organic waste collected through municipal green bin programs to composing facilities in the US. Ontario composting facilities are said to be running beyond capacity or have been shut down due to “odour problems.”
This is another classic example of NIMBY-ism preventing Ontario from creating jobs and lessening its environmental footprint. Apparently nobody wants a stinky old compost facility in their neighbourhood. Think of the jobs that could be created by building and operating incinerators here in Ontario. Also, think of the environmental benefits of dealing with our own waste rather than trucking it down to the States for the Americans to deal with. We must weigh the emissions and fuel consumption created by each of those truck trips against the reduction in methane emissions created by organics in the first place. Are we really any further ahead?
The NIMBYs have also reportedly put a damper on the province’s plans to put windmills along Lake Ontario shorelines. If Ontario really wants to become a leader in sustainable energy development and build an economy based on this emerging industry, then it needs the support of its residents. This is no time for NIMBY-ism. We need to welcome the construction of organic waste processing facilities and windmills here in Ontario. Just don’t put them in my backyard.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • The Ontario Government hasn’t a clue on any aspect they have tackled. Oh, sorry, tackled isn’t the term. It should be ‘brushed aside without consideration.’ Take for instance the stance on waste oil/vegetable oil as fuel. They have banned the use of these burners south of North Bay to the Canada/US border. Do they really think a stupid law is going to defy the laws of physics by preventing emissions from coming in or going out of that particular area of the province? 50% of Ontario’s waste oil is exported to the Northern US for, get this, fuel. But don’t worry, the Ontario Government has billed a law, so none of those emissions come back into Canada.
    Granted, there are some pretty crappy manufacturers of waste oil furnaces. There is, however, at least one manufacturer who produces an Energy Star rated model. The company is Inov8 International out of Wisconsin. Do you think that the existing waste oil furnace owners in Ontario all got rid of their waste oil furnaces because the Government said they HAD to? I used to live in that geographic area where the ban is in place, and they surely would be viewing my middle finger if they tried to force me to remove this practical, cost saving form of heat for commercial uses. The Ontario Government has its’ collective head you know where.

  • That ban on waste oil heaters says it all. It’s among the most asinine pieces of legislation I’ve ever come across.
    The EPA supports the use of waste oil heaters, but in all their wisdom the Province of Ontario has banned their use. But only in the southern parts of the province. If it’s so hazardous to our health, then why is the practice still permitted in the northern parts of the province?
    And our Energy Minister doesn’t even attempt to hide the fact her strings are being pulled by SafetyKleen – a used oil recycler that stands to benefit the most from this law. She makes the announcement on their front porch!
    Instead of burning the oil in approved furnaces, we’re going to truck it (via SafetyKleen) to recyling facilities, creating emissions and consuming fuel all the way. Then we also have to truck in another form of heating fuel, again creating emissions and burning fuel all the way. And for what? To heat facilities using another type of fuel that is arguably no more environmentally-friendly than waste oil?
    I know some trucking companies in southern Ontario were planning on continuing to use their waste oil heaters. And I haven’t heard of any fines being laid.