Trudeau’s stumble on personal plastic use was indicative of a bigger political problem.
It was a political move that was so easy to see through: on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to ban single-use plastics like plastic cutlery, bags, straws, plates, and stir sticks by as early as 2021 if re-elected.
Yet when asked a simple question; what his own family has done to reduce plastic use in their home, he stumbled.
“We have recently switched to drinking water bottles out of water out of when we have water bottles out of plastic uh, sorry, away from plastic toward paper, um, like drink box water bottles kind of things,” he said.
So he recently switched from plastic bottles to “paper drink box water bottles kind of things.” Many Canadians ditched disposable bottles altogether a long time ago.
Not coincidentally, a poll released Monday by the Angus Reid Institute indicated Canadians said Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is better suited to deal with climate change than Trudeau (22% compared to 15%). Not surprisingly, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, held the lead on that question, at 35%.
This is a real problem for Trudeau – so what’s happening here? It’s not whether Trudeau was unaware of the benefits of reusable water bottles, or even that he tripped over his words.
It’s that the announcement was, well, see-through.
Environmental change really begins at home. This past weekend, I heard Bea Johnson, who is credited for popularizing the zero waste lifestyle movement speak about how this approach has revolutionized her life. By refusing, reducing, reusing and recycling, she says she has cut her household budget by 40%, decluttered her home, and made room for the things she says truly matter to her.
Johnson radiates passion and joy. Her enthusiasm is contagious and left me wishing we had this kind of personal leadership from our Prime Minister.
The government’s press release was full of big numbers and sweeping statements. And while the plan for a Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste is commendable, the delivery of the announcement felt like a ploy for re-election.
At a time when he has the country’s cameras focused on him, Trudeau could have also taken the opportunity to highlight some real positive initiatives to reduce waste: bringing cloth shopping bags and bins to the grocery store, shopping in bulk, buying second-hand clothing, and more.
To inspire change, we need our leader setting an example, not arbitrarily imposing a ban on the rest of us.
Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org