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Liberals on defensive over eco fee surplus (Eco news)

Liberals on defensive over eco fee surplus
Toronto Star reported
 
The controversy over a $20 million surplus in eco fees collected from consumers has put Ontario’s Liberal government on the defensive with just 100 days until the Oct. 6 election.

The cash was collected by retailers to fund the environmentally safe recycling of old TVs and other electronics instead of dropping them in garbage dumps, where toxic chemicals leach into the ground.

But the fact it has gone unspent is proof the eco fee program for electronics, begun in 2009, is “sneaky” and poorly run, the Progressive Conservatives said Monday after a Star report detailed the problem.

“The very fact that they have a $20 million surplus . . . shows you that it was a tax grab because clearly it was mismanaged,” Tory MPP Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North) told reporters.

Environment Minister John Wilkinson was quick to pin the problem of the surplus on the private industry body in charge of the fees — Ontario Electronic Stewardship, operating under the regulatory authority from the province.

“They’re in charge of the program, not the ministry,” said Wilkinson, whose government is in a tough battle to win a third term.

He defended the fees, which are now $26.25 on televisions and $12.25 on computer monitors, for example, as necessary to keep them out of landfill sites and noted that fees for each are being dropped $1.25 starting Aug. 1.

Consumers should be pleased by the drop because it shows authorities are “paying attention,” Wilkinson added, noting the volumes of products being recycled under the program are steadily rising, although below targets set during the recession.

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