Manitoba’s newspaper industry hasn’t paid its recycling fees since August 2017, according to the province, racking up a bill of around $1 million.
Sarah Guillemard, minister for conservation and climate, said that two-and-a-half years later, newspapers around Manitoba are now in talks with the province, municipalities and Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba (MMSM) to come up with an agreement.
Guillemard says all parties are expected to come to an agreement by Feb. 19.
“The government sets the framework for what can be recycled within the province,” said Guillemard.
“The act we’re talking about specifically here pertains to newspapers and their responsibility to the product they’re putting out and their responsibility for recycling it. For many years, the government has been subsidizing that cost, so we put the newspapers on notice,” she added.
“There’s been plenty of time to come up with a workable solution, and it seems that when we’ve stopped the subsidies, that’s what really motivated the industry to look at solutions.”
“We’ll give the required time up to Feb. 19, and I imagine we’re going to actually have a proper long-term solution at the end of that.”
The newspaper industry is proposing it pay back the recycling fees in the form of advertising in-kind to municipalities like Winnipeg, Brandon and other communities.
The proposal, presented by the three dailies and 47 community newspapers represented by New Media Canada (NMC) in Manitoba, was influenced by similar programs in provinces like Ontario, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Quebec.
Advertising credits allocated to each newspaper would be based on the dollar amount per tonne of newsprint sold in the Manitoba market, and would be used to ‘promote stewardship programs and drive up recycling rates for all materials in all municipalities in Manitoba.’
In a statement to 680 CJOB, MMSM — a non-profit industry-funded organization that operates waste diversion programs for designated packaging and printed paper — said it’s hoping for a positive resolution to the outstanding recycling bill.
“MMSM is supportive of an in-kind program as long as there are no negative impacts, financial or otherwise, to our members, municipal partners or the residential recycling program in Manitoba,” the statement read.
“A program plan by newspaper stewards would create complexities for municipalities, MMSM and government. This would include a requirement for additional studies, municipal reporting and administration.”
The publisher of Manitoba’s biggest newspaper supports the in-kind program and says papers in Manitoba have never considered paying cash for recycling.
Bob Cox told 680 CJOB that other jurisdictions have a better way of handling newspaper recycling costs.
“Really what we’ve proposed is the same system that’s used in every jurisdiction in this country where there are requirements for stewards to handle waste material, or to pay for waste material,” he said.
“This is the system that’s used, in which newspapers basically compensate municipalities for handling material by giving in-kind advertising.”
Cox said the newspaper industry has been at the table, anxious for a solution over the past two-and-a-half years and has worked slowly toward a solution through consultations with the various provincial ministers who have handled the file over that time.
Not everyone is so keen on the proposed plan, however.
Todd MacKay with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation told 680 CJOB he’s not a fan of the suggestion that newspapers pay back the money with in-kind advertising.
“I get why (the newspaper industry paying a $1 million bill) would be a tough move, but on the other hand, I can’t pay my property taxes with rhubarb I grow in my back yard,” he said.
“The rest of us all have to pay with cash.”
Guillemard said recycling isn’t cheap, but it’s an important environmental investment.
“We are fiscally responsible as a government, but this responsibility has always laid on the shoulders of newspapers — they’ve just been subsidized by the government, and what we’ve recognized is that the industry really does need to show responsibility and take leadership in terms of the products they’re producing and the cost on the environment.”