The bag ban is off — at least for now.
Toronto Council voted overwhelmingly to put the brakes on a new bylaw that was to have banned reusable plastic bags in Toronto retailers as of Jan. 1 next year.
The bylaw had been approved back in the summer, when Willowdale Councillor David Shiner moved an amendment to a motion by Mayor Rob Ford to end the mandatory plastic bag fee imposed by the previous administration.
Both the old fee, and Shiner’s amendment, were intended to curb the use of plastic bags and keep them out of both landfills and the environment.
Since then, the snap decision had retailers and the plastics industry up in arms, and the city was facing two lawsuits over the bylaw, which had no public consultation.
On Wednesday, Nov. 28, council had before it the final draft of the bylaw — which ordinarily would be a routine matter.
But in light of the legal challenges, council voted on a confidential set of recommendations which amount to the cancellation of the bag fee.
“I think the public will be very pleased with this,” said public works and infrastructure committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong. “I believe we made a significant mistake in the way this was adopted and I’m hopeful that council will learn from that.”
After the vote, Minnan-Wong said the city had given instructions to staff to go to industry groups with an offer.
“My suspicion is that they will be quite satisfied with the decision that council has made and the instruction we’ve given to our lawyers,” he said.
Industry representatives at the meeting were pleased.
“We’re very happy council made the right decision today on behalf of all Torontonians,” said Joe Hruska of the Canadian Plastic Bag Association.
“It will save thousands of jobs. It’s a confidential report so we don’t know what’s in there. But the best we can tell right now is the bag ban is not enacted.”
But the same couldn’t be said for environmentalists.
“This is a bad decision for the environment; this is a bad decision for Torontonians,” said Emily Alfred with the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
“Instead of good policy making and good decision making at city hall this got mired in politics and a pet project by the mayor. We’re disappointed. This would have been a great symbolic decision to move ahead with the bag ban.”
Council also approved a motion to study other ways to curb the use of plastic bags. That report will come forward to the public works and infrastructure committee in June of 2013.