The mechanics of party politics may stall the Canadian Plastics Institute's latest, C$22 million (US$16 million) project, a much-needed research and development lab to be called the Plastics Technology Centre, according to CPI spokeswoman Karen Wolfe. CPI, now in its third year of federal funding, started up in 1983 as a vehicle for technology exchange among the country's plastics concerns, to help them compete globally, Wolfe said. It is a collaboration of Canadian government, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. of Canada and various representatives of plastics processing, materials and machinery firms, which all fund CPI and sit on its board.
But earlier this year, in an effort to cut overall spending, the federal government decided to pull its money in 1998, leaving CPI to recoup those funds elsewhere.
The Ontario government is CPI's main hope. For the past two years plastics industry leaders and Ontario have been discussing plans for the new center. The province has promised C$11 million (US$8 million) toward PTC, providing CPI can match the sum from industry sources, Wolfe said in a recent telephone interview. It has been doing just that with fund-raising efforts led by SPI Canada.
But provincial party politics could throw ``a monkey wrench in the middle of this whole thing,'' she said. A June election may oust the present government, which supports the PTC proposal, further stalling its progress. If that happens, CPI will need time to bring the new party up to speed, she said.
``In a worst-case scenario, PTC is at least a year away from cabinet approval,'' Wolfe said.
Although CPI has worked toward becoming financially self-reliant, it does not have enough capital to fund a lab and processing equipment for R&D, she said. The center will build on CPI's infrastructure and eventually will supplant it, she said.
``I think CPI will evolve into the PTC,'' Wolfe said.
PTC will help bolster Canada's competitiveness in the world market by acquiring new technology; providing technical service, testing and certification; upgrading technical knowledge; and facilitating pre-competitive research, according to CPI literature. CPI said the center plans to acquire a facility from Novacor Chemicals Ltd. at a discounted price. The building, in Mississauga, Ontario, once housed a technical center for DuPont Canada Ltd.
Meanwhile CPI has yet to replace its former director, Nabil Mustafa, who left in January to head research and development at blow molder ABC Group of Rexdale, Ontario. The institute hoped to appoint a new director with PTC funding in hand. But it has not worked out that way.
``The timing with the election has stalled everything,'' Wolfe said. ``A lot of industry people have worked very hard to get this far, to build this momentum.''
Last week professors, engineers, executives and other plastics industry experts gathered in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, to attend the 1995 International Symposium on Developing Plastics Technologies, sponsored by CPI. The two-day event addressed ``what's new'' in plastics processing and ``how to get it,'' focusing on company partnerships, industry-government cooperatives and other strategic alliances.
SPI oversees CPI, based in Don Mills, Ontario.