HALIFAX - Climate change was on federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh's mind as he delivered his keynote address at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Halifax on Saturday morning.
In his speech, he told the packed ballroom at the Halifax Convention Centre that municipalities need to invest in reducing their emissions and introducing programs to promote green alternatives.
"The reality is, climate change, and the impact of it, isn't an issue of tomorrow," he said, pointing to flooding in parts of the country as recent examples. "Without a doubt, we've got to take action right now."
Singh's speech also addressed inequality, affordable housing, addiction, and mental health.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Singh called on Canadians to take steps to reduce marine litter by implementing bans on single-use plastics like shopping bags, disposable drink bottles and plastic cutlery.
He said Canada can start small by, for example, banning plastic straws and introducing steel or paper alternatives before widening the ban.
"We need to make a step. There's so many countries that have already taken that step ahead of us, there's certain cities that have taken that step ahead of us," he said. "As a nation, we need to commit."
Saturday morning, more than a thousand delegates at the FCM overwhelmingly voted in favour of a resolution to urge the federal government to create a marine litter mitigation strategy.
FCM first vice-president and Halifax city councillor Bill Karsten said the timing of this vote couldn't be better, as it comes less than a week before the upcoming G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Que., where the issue of marine litter is set to be discussed by world leaders.
He said in an interview Saturday that he believes the resolution will be welcomed at the summit.
"It will show the municipalities' support, from coast-to-coast-to-coast, for the federal government moving ahead," he said.
"With eight million tonnes of plastic finding its way from our shores to the oceans on an annual, every-year basis, it's time to find solutions together."
Karsten said highlights to the resolution incude finding ways for both provincial and federal governments to support innovative waste management, as well as developing public education and awareness campaigns.
In April, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna launched a public consultation on plastic garbage to help pinpoint ways for the country to eliminate plastic waste and reduce marine litter.
"It’s not just cleaning up after the fact: it’s actually being thoughtful about how we reduce, how we recycle, how we compost," she said at the time.
According to the federal government, more than 150 million tonnes of plastic waste is clogging the oceans worldwide and it’s estimated that plastic could outweigh fish by 2050.