Saanich will take a wait-and-see approach on banning single-use plastic bags, as Victoria recently did. An association representing the industry has launched a legal challenge against the ban. Black Press File.

Saanich slows down push to ban single-use plastic bags

Saanich to await outcome of Victoria court case before moving ahead with banning single-use plastic bags

Efforts to ban single-use plastic bags in Saanich have hit a snag after Saanich council defeated a recommendation that asked staff to seek legal advice on the issue.

Council Monday voted 5-4 against a recommendation to “obtain legal advice on banning single use plastic bags and setting minimum pricing for single use plastic bags.”

Mayor Richard Atwell, Couns. Karen Harper, Fred Haynes, Colin Plant and Leif Wergeland voted against the recommendation from the planning, transportation, and economic development advisory committee. Couns. Susan Brice, Judy Brownoff, Dean Murdock and Vicki Sanders supported the recommendation.

Council’s decision came just days after an organization representing the plastic bag industry launched a petition against the City of Victoria that looks to overturn that municipality’s decision to ban single-use plastic bags.

The Canadian Plastic Bag Association (CPBA) claims the municipality lacks the authority to pass such a ban or to impose minimum fees for paper or reusable bags. The CPBA claims the move will “significantly impact” its members who manufacture and supply bags for the Victoria market.

Atwell said it would be a waste of staff resources to seek an internal legal opinion before the case against the Victoria bylaw had played out, a point Haynes echoed. Saanich has a fiduciary duty, he said, stressing that the question of whether Saanich should single ban single-use bags is a different question. Harper agreed. It would not be a good use of staff time, she said. It does not make sense to seek a legal opinion now, when the final legal opinion will not be available until a court has ruled on the challenge.

Supporters of the recommendation, however, expressed fears Saanich could lose momentum by delaying. Saanich will need an internal legal opinion on way or another, said Brownoff. Victoria, she said, is moving ahead with its ban, notwithstanding the court challenge. Brice said Saanich has a chance to create a “groundswell” in favour of the ban by “pushing it as close as possible to the line without green-lighting it.” Sanders, meanwhile, said parts of the industry have already accepted the new direction.

Without making a prediction, Murdock said the case will come down to the question whether Victoria has the authority. “I suspect it is going to come down to the rationale they provided in presenting the regulation. Environment is a funny thing. It seems like all levels of government do in fact have the authority. It just depends on the rationale.”

Efforts to ban single-use plastic bags date back to early 2017 when council received a presentation from two Glenlyon Norfolk School students, who urged council to reduce and eventually eliminate plastic bags, citing a long list of harmful effects.

They include the death of sea birds, sea mammals and fish. Single-use plastic bags have also received criticism for contributing to climate change by using non-renewable hydro-carbons. Finally, scientists have linked the central chemical compound in the manufacturing of plastic bags, Bisphenol A – or BPA – with pregnancy problems, prostrate problems and behaviour problems in children.

Formal efforts started to take shape in September 2017 when Brice tabled a notice of motion that led Saanich to investigate its own ban based on a model from the Capital Regional District (CRD). It would ban retailers from offering single-use plastic bags free of charge, but does not set any specific charges itself, while spelling out various exemptions.

While it is not clear how many single-use plastic bags currently circulate through Saanich, the number is likely high.

Greener Footprints, a not-for-profit society registered in British Columbia, estimates that Canadians use up to 15 billion bags every year, or about 17,000 bags a minute. Naturally, many will end up in local landfills.

A City of Victoria report captures this problematic issue. “The volume of single-use plastic bags entering the waste stream and escaping collection systems is a growing concern for cities, and should be addressed by improved waste management schemes and more sustainable consumer behaviour,” said Fraser Work, director of engineering and public works.

Council’s decision comes against the backdrop of local communities heading into different directions on the issue of single-use plastic bags.

While Victoria has moved forward with banning single plastic bags, Oak Bay has taken a wait-and-see approach, a stand Esquimalt recently joined.

Outside the Greater Victoria region, Nanaimo recently voted to ban plastic bags, as did Montreal.

But these efforts have also generated opposition from the public and industry, which appears to have won a temporary rear-guard victory.

Just Posted

Metchosin moves to regulate short-term vacation rentals

Airbnb operators could be required to have a business licence

Shamrocks have their eye on another Mann Cup

Home opener kicks off the season this Friday in Colwood

Sooke mom threatens legal action against sunscreen company

Caleb Jordan, 6, was covered in blisters 20 minutes after using Banana Boat sunscreen

Mighty garage sale returns to Metchosin

Find everything from household goods to instruments

Victoria man arrested for sexual assault on BC Transit bus

Incident took place downtown, in broad daylight in front of fellow passengers

VIDEO: Tide pool school draws a crowd to explore seaside in Oak Bay

Friends of Uplands Park hosted the inter-tidal exploration at Cattle Point on… Continue reading

Editorial: Amateur sports benefits the entire community

The crack of the bat and the sounds of cheers fill the… Continue reading

Woman’s death near Tofino prompts warning about ‘unpredictable’ ocean

Ann Wittenberg was visiting Tofino for her daughter Victoria Emon’s wedding

B.C. man facing deportation says terror accusation left him traumatized

Othman Hamdan was acquitted of terrorism-related charges by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in September

Will Taylor Swift’s high concert ticket prices stop scalpers?

Move by artist comes as B.C. looks to how to regulate scalpers and bots reselling concert tickets

Saanich councillor says amalgamation motion has ‘failed’

A Saanich councillor has questioned ongoing amalgamation talks with the City of… Continue reading

36 fires sparked May long weekend, most due to lightning: BC Wildfire

As warmer weather nears, chief fire officer Kevin Skrepnek says too soon to forecast summer

Ariana Grande sends message of hope on anniversary of Manchester bombing

Prince William joins survivors and emergency workers for remembrance service

B.C. flood risk switches from snowmelt to rainfall: River Forecast Centre

Kootenays and Fraser River remain serious concerns

Most Read