The provincial attorney general has filed notice with the Federal Court of Canada that Alberta will make submissions in a case arguing that a decision by the federal minister of health and the minister of the environment and climate change to list “plastic manufactured items” as “toxic substances” under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was unconstitutional.

Alberta will argue that the federal government’s decision to label plastic as a “toxic substance” is an unconstitutional intrusion into provincial jurisdiction.

“Our government continues to do everything possible to defend Alberta’s vital economic interests. We have Canada’s largest petrochemical sector and are on the cusp of a major expansion, with $18 billion of new low-emitting petrochemical projects announced in the province. The future energy transition can only happen with a wider reliance on lightweight plastic products, which are an essential part of our daily lives. The federal decision to list perfectly safe plastic consumer products as ‘toxic substances’ is a huge overreach and could impair investor confidence in the petrochemical sector that employs tens of thousands of Canadians.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“Labelling plastic a ‘toxic substance’ is a direct threat to our economy and an intrusion into our jurisdiction that is having a negative impact on Alberta’s petrochemical industry by creating uncertainty for employers and investors. Instead of making use of existing strategies to reduce waste and embrace the economic opportunities presented by recycling and reusing plastics, the federal government has chosen overreach instead.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

The federal government’s action has already negatively affected investment in the province’s petrochemical sector. An analysis by the Ministry of Energy indicated that more than $30 billion is at risk because of the “toxic” designation.

Furthermore, labelling plastic disregards other available tools that Alberta is already using, including developing a circular economy for plastics where they are recycled and enter the market, as well as redefining plastic waste as a valuable commodity that should be collected for reuse.

Alberta is intervening in a case brought to the federal court by the Responsible Plastic Use Coalition, Dow Chemical, Imperial Oil and Nova Chemicals. The parties are seeking a judicial review of the decision to add “plastic manufactured items” to a list of toxic substances specified in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Under federal legislation, the attorneys general of Canada and the provinces are entitled to participate and make arguments on constitutional questions without having to apply for leave to intervene.

Premier Jason Kenney is also sending a letter to premiers across the country advising them of Alberta’s intervention and asking them to take similar action.