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The OWMA’s 2017 Annual General Meeting and Conference in Toronto last Wednesday brought together more than 170 waste management professionals for a day-long program of informative sessions, expert panels, professional networking and the Chairman’s Dinner with Ontario’s Environment and Climate Change Minister, Glen Murray.

Attendees overwhelming reported they were pleased with the format, the venue, the speakers and the panel topics that were chosen for this year’s conference.

The event got started with the AGM’s opening keynote speaker Dianne Saxe, who serves as the province’s Environmental Commissioner. Saxe shared her thoughts on what’s needed to increase waste diversion in Ontario, including new measures to tackle organic waste, the designation of new materials for recycling programs and putting robust recycling standards in place. Attendees enjoyed Saxe’s presentation and were pleased that many of her priorities aligned with those of the OWMA. 

Streamlining approvals to reach the circular economy

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Tim Murphy (left), Vice President of Environmental Performance at Walker Environmental Group, discusses the need to reform financial assurance during a panel discussion with Larry Fedec (right), a Consultant at HDR Corporation.

The first panel of the day included an impressive group of leaders in the fields of waste management and diversion. The panel participants provided their professional insight into the changes needed to create the right regulatory framework to promote sustainable growth in Ontario’s waste management sector. As the province advances toward a circular economy, the panel stressed the need to streamline environmental compliance approvals while reforming financial assurance in a way that encourages new investment in additional recycling and compost capacity.

Planning for a Waste-Free Ontario

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Wendy Ren (right), Director of the province’s Resource Recovery Policy Branch, outlines the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s plans to implement the Waste-Free Ontario Act and Strategy during a panel discussion. The other panel participants from left to right are: Glenda Gies, Chair of the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority; former OWMA Chairman Norm Lee; and Paulina Leung, OWMA Board Director and Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development at Emterra Environmental Group.

The AGM’s second panel paired two of the province’s regulators with OWMA Board Director Paulina Leung and former OWMA Chairman Norm Lee to discuss the continued implementation of the Waste-Free Ontario Act and Strategy. Wendy Ren, Director of the province’s Resource Recovery Policy Branch, and Glenda Gies, Chair of the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority, provided an overview of the government’s planned transition of Ontario’s recycling programs, which includes the wind-up of Ontario Tire Stewardship by the end of 2018. Panel participants agreed the transition of these programs will require a coordinated effort that brings all parties together to develop a clear path forward. 

Determining the future of Ontario’s Blue Box

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Corporate Policy Group Partner Usman Valiante (left) speaks about the timeline for transitioning Ontario’s Blue Box program during a panel discussion with (from left to right) Reclay Group’s Dr. Fritz Flanderka, AMO’s Dave Gordon and OWMA Vice-Chairman Jake Westerhof.

The final panel of the day drew a big crowd of attendees to hear four experts speak about the future of the Blue Box program – both from an industry and municipal perspective. Corporate Policy Group Partner Usman Valiante and Dave Gordon, Senior Advisor at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, had an interesting exchange about the timing required to transition the Blue Box into a fully funded and producer-led program. While some producers and municipalities would like more time, others would like to see a faster transition of the program to reduce uncertainty in the sector. Despite the differences of opinion, all sides agree that the provincial government must clearly outline the timeline and process to transition the Blue Box.

Attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions of all panelists and heard from many other excellent speakers over the course of the day, including York University Researcher Calvin Lakhan and Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, who formerly served as the Ontario PCs’ Environment and Cap-and-Trade Critic.

For the official Annual General Meeting, the OWMA Board of Directors made three new appointments. Dan Pio, President of Progressive Waste Solutions, assumed the Chairman’s Role; Jake Westerhof, Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development at Canada Fibers, took on the Vice-Chairman’s role; and Denis Goulet, Vice President and General Manager at Miller Waste Systems, assumed the Treasurer’s role.

The event concluded with a timely speech at the Chairman’s Dinner by Ontario Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray. He discussed his ministry’s plans for a landfill strategy and encouraged the OWMA to work with him on streamlining environmental compliance approvals to assist with the government’s Open for Business Initiative.

The OWMA is pleased with the feedback from this year’s AGM and is looking forward to bringing the sector together, once again, for our Chairman’s Invitational Golf Tournament in May.

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Ontario Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray speaks at the OWMA’s Chairman’s Dinner on March 1 in Toronto and highlights the government’s commitment to working with association members to modernize environmental compliance approvals.