Canadian Plastics Industry Wants Government Help

Canadian Plastics Industry Association wants Ottawa and some provincial governments to help the industry boost investments and save jobs.

OTTAWA (CP) -- Canada's plastics industry is looking to boost its profile and is calling on governments to help attract more investment to what it calls an essential business not just for the economy, but daily life.

The Canadian Plastics Industry Association wants Ottawa and some provincial governments to help the industry create an "industrial strategy" aimed at luring capital investment, expanding exports and creating more jobs in Canada.

It's calling for increased tax breaks for plastics research and development and more recognition of the $30-billion industry's role in the Canadian economy.

The association represents a variety of companies, ranging from plastic processors, recyclers, resin and compound manufacturers to machine and tool makers across Canada.

The industry lobby also acknowledges it needs to do a better job of promoting itself.

As a result, it has launched a new "Intelligent Plastics" campaign to highlight the material's role in everything from food packaging to medical equipment and cars.

"We've been too silent as an industry," said Mark Badger, the association's new president and CEO.

Badger said it's because of the industry's low profile that it is often overlooked and sometimes gets a bad reputation in such areas as recycling.

Part of the industry's new campaign is to better promote recycling, and increase awareness in municipalities across Canada about what plastics can and can't go into blue boxes.

"We need to continually reinforce that recycling is the thing to do," Badger said.

He also said more people need to be made aware of ways plastics can help reduce greenhouse gases.

For instance, he said plastics help make automobiles and airplanes lighter, and therefore use less fuel.

He also points to the use of plastics in many medical devices, such as hip replacements.

"Plastic is such a strategic element of our way of life and our economy. We can't afford to let it migrate to other places," Badger said.

"We are the best-kept secret in terms of our economic and social impact."

However, since 2003, Badger said the industry in Canada has lost about 27 percent of its processing jobs -- those are the people who make packaging and parts -- bringing the current job count to about 77,000.

Overall, he said about 106,000 people are employed in the industry across Canada.

While the recession is partially to blame for the job losses, Badger said Canada is losing competitive ground to other, more innovative countries.

He pointed to places such as Austria, France and Australia, whose governments are doing more to boost their plastics industries through better tax breaks and specialized programs.

Badger wants governments in Canada to partner with the industry and help keep Canada on top of the latest developments in the industry, from research and design, to manufacturing and technology.

Badger said he received an email late Monday from Industry Minister Tony Clement acknowledging his association's requests. Badger said ministry officials told him Tuesday a meeting will be set up in the near future.

Badger also requested a meeting with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, considering that the province is the third-largest plastics-producing region in North America.

The industry is also heavily concentrated in the provinces of Quebec, Alberta and B.C., where the association will also be seeking support.

The association represents more than 3,350 companies across Canada, including fabricators, recyclers, resin and compound manufacturers, machine and tool makers, with annual revenues exceeding $31 billion.

Plastics is the sixth largest in the manufacturing sector in Canada by value of shipments, according to industry statistics.

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