Saanich shoppers are one step closer to seeing a ban on plastic bags at local stores.
On March 15, council voted unanimously in favour of bringing forward the district’s checkout bag regulation bylaw for final adoption on June 21.
According to a staff report, the bylaw was given three readings in the fall of 2019 and has also been approved by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Once adopted, the bylaw would come into effect in 60 days.
In December 2020, council opted to implement the bylaw in April to align with Victoria’s timeline, but staff have since recommended that the adoption be undertaken in June to allow residents and business owners time to plan for the changes.
The plastic checkout bag ban has been on council’s docket since 2018 and, while it has been a long process with many delays, if approved in June, the bylaw would come into effect Aug. 21, explained Coun. Susan Brice, a longtime proponent of the ban.
In mid-2019, council adopted an initial version of the bylaw and planned to implement it on Jan. 1, 2020. The bylaw was similar to the one Victoria implemented in July 2018 which was later struck down by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Saanich repealed its bylaw after Victoria’s legal battle and a replacement focused on protecting the natural environment was sent to the province for approval. Last March, B.C.’s environment minister approved plastic bag ban bylaws for Saanich, Victoria, Tofino, Ucluelet and Richmond.
Brice noted that the pandemic also played a role in delaying implementation of the bylaw as initial public health orders did not allow shoppers to bring reusable bags from home. Those orders have since been lifted.
As council has been unanimous on the bylaw all along, she expects it will be adopted with strong support on June 21. Brice hopes the 60-day waiting period will allow businesses to use their remaining plastic bag stocks and residents to prepare for the shift.
It may take time for behaviours to change, but it’s time for this bylaw to go into effect, she said. As with any policy change, there may be some who take time to adjust, but many residents have already switched to reusable bags, so Brice feels certain the change will be welcomed.
While this bylaw isn’t the only solution to the world’s plastic pollution problem, “it’s a good start” and sends a message that Saanich is ready to take action, said Mayor Fred Haynes.
When the bylaw goes into effect, paper bags will be available at stores for no less than 15 cents and reusable bags for at least $1.