Toronto’s bag ban will go ahead Jan. 1, 2013 — but retailers who are slow to get rid of their stock of single-use plastic bags won’t face charges until June.
That was the recommendation approved by Toronto’s public works and infrastructure committee, following a public hearings that frustrated many of those coming to depute.
“You have a legal opinion indicating this process is a sham,” said Kevin Gaudet, who is leading a coalition of businesses trying to convince council to drop the idea of banning plastic bags.
Committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong didn’t disagree. But it was his ruling that ensured the public wouldn’t be able to speak about the question of whether to ban bags because, he said, council had already made the call in the summer, then decided not to reconsider it in September.
Because of that, said Minnan-Wong, the public consultations couldn’t deal with the merits of the policy — just how it ought to be implemented.
Gary Rygus from the Retail Council of Canada was one of the few deputations who spoke to implementation. He said retailers would need more time to implement alternatives to plastic bags — between six and nine months.
“We need time to adjust; we cannot do that in the time that’s prescribed,” he said.
The committee wouldn’t go to nine months, but supported the six-month phase-in, which will see the bylaw in force by Jan. 1, but not enforced with fines until six months later.
Willowdale Councillor David Shiner was the councillor who brought the surprise motion to the floor of council in the summer. He said six months should be enough.
“The retail council said this is something they can do,” he said. “The only problem is the implementation date and unfortunately some members of council tried to open it already. It didn’t get changed, and we’re stuck with Jan. 1,” he said.
“We won’t give people fines, we want the co-operation they have offered us.”
Minnan-Wong, who opposed the policy, supported the bylaw — but only because the political fallout from killing a policy at the late stage of bylaw approval could undermine other council decisions in the future.
“I think the reason I’m supporting this report to support the bylaw is because I don’t want to debate everything twice,” he said. “I’m doing this because to not support that moves council to a dysfunctionality that we have yet to see, and I would shudder to think that we would see.”
Minnan-Wong said ultimately the bylaw will live or die in the courts.
‘We’re leaving it to the private sector to save us from our own madness,” he said. “They have to save us by hopefully going to court and having this stupidity overturned.”