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Council throws out plastic bag ban bylaw

Posted by Chris Bateman / November 28, 2012

toronto bag banToronto city council has voted 38-7 not to adopt a bylaw banning the sale of single use plastic bags, instead opting for further study into alternative ways of discouraging use of the shopping containers.

The result, which can be considered a victory for embattled mayor Rob Ford, essentially kills off any chance of the city preventing supermarkets handing out carrier bags to customers in the new year as planned. Instead, a study looking at different solutions will be presented in 2013.

Two separate interest groups, the Ontario Convenience Stores Association and the Canadian Plastic Bag Association, filed lawsuits against the city this month in protest at the way the ban was enacted earlier this year.

During a debate on the nickel checkout fee, a surprise motion by councillor David Shiner to ban plastic bags entirely passed 24-20, much to the anger of the mayor. Both plastic bag groups taking legal action against the city claimed the prohibition was enacted without proper consultations. It's not clear what effect today's decision will have on the intentions of the OCSA and CPBA.

Speaking before the vote, Councillor Gord Perks told Rob Ford "congratulations Mr. Mayor, you won, but the city of Toronto lost." Shortly after, councillor Doug Ford questioned the sense behind preventing the sale of cheap plastic bags, saying "What are you going to do? Walk out with grapes and fruit in your hand?".

Several other councillors, including Giorgio Mammoliti and deputy mayor Doug Holyday, said this was a chance to go back and re-examine the process that led to the ban, not an indictment of the idea itself.

As it stands, there will not be a return of the 5-cent bag fee either. It's possible the ban or another form of prohibition will be discussed again next summer.

How do you feel about the result - will it change the way you pick up groceries? Do you already bring re-usable carriers to the supermarket?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo: "Harold Still Bargains" by Tsar Kasim in the blogTO Flickr pool.



Big Fuckin Mega Boat / November 28, 2012 at 01:12 pm
Funny how quickly some people change their minds when the threat of legal action looms.
Big Fuckin Mega Boat / November 28, 2012 at 01:16 pm
Oh, and thumbs up for the lead photo, brought back a lot of memories of the awesome outfits I used to rock from Bargain Harold's as a kid :D (velcro Ventures anyone?)
Todd / November 28, 2012 at 01:18 pm
That's the sign of a hoarder-- a plastic bag from twenty years ago in pristine condition.

Anyway, the ban was stupid. Very stupid. I just feel even more stupid for starting to hoard bags for litter and household trash.
Ford4ever replying to a comment from Todd / November 28, 2012 at 01:27 pm

I hoarded incandescent light bulbs last year, preparing for the ban. Boy, did I feel silly when the province finally came to its senses...
scott / November 28, 2012 at 01:31 pm
This is the problem with having an incompetent mayor. Instead of having any vision for the city, it's all just focusing over and over again on issues which should be quickly decided and left alone: the Jarvis Bike Lane, the 5 cent fee on plastic bags. These issues were already decided. There's been no need whatsoever to revisit either of these things. Meanwhile, there are probably more important things going on in the city. I'm looking forward to finally having a city council that might actually pay attention to nontrivial issues.
Paul / November 28, 2012 at 01:33 pm
I think the ban was ill-considered, but I definitely support bringing back a 5 or 10 cent fee for bags.
Chris on Bay St / November 28, 2012 at 01:36 pm
I shop at Loblaws on Queen which still charges the 5c fee. I get a half dozen bags per week which I re-use for trash or carrying my lunch to work. I always re-used my bags so as far as I'm concerned the fee is a cash grab and a ban amounts to little more than social engineering.
steve replying to a comment from scott / November 28, 2012 at 02:00 pm
Sober second thought is a powerful thing
It allows one to go back and correct mistakes.

Jarvis was a mistake, by Davy. It wasn't in the bike lane plan. He just threw it out there. The bag ban was a joke that came out of no where. No one expected it to pass and everyone was shocked when it did
CowgirlTO / November 28, 2012 at 02:16 pm
I am getting whiplash from the decisions made by city council.
v79 / November 28, 2012 at 02:22 pm
Nice to see them recognize the error of their ways and make a wrong right. There was no angle from which this ban was a positive thing - not convenience wise, not environmentally and not fiscally. Sanity prevails, at least for a day, at City Hall.
AV replying to a comment from Chris on Bay St / November 28, 2012 at 02:22 pm
What happened Chris, they strip you of your glorious MBA??? lol
Benedict Harris replying to a comment from Chris on Bay St / November 28, 2012 at 02:22 pm
"Social engineering"! I think you mean "society".
Doug / November 28, 2012 at 02:26 pm
Good to know that the plastics industry is making decisions for us at City Hall.
Noel / November 28, 2012 at 02:29 pm
Alternative ways of discouraging? What a joke. People are motivated by money. The change in behaviour shown by people not willing to pay as little as 5c/bag and preferring to bring their own bags instead said it all.

Too bad city council doesn't care about the environment or waste.
Yang / November 28, 2012 at 02:31 pm
So now we have no mandatory five cent fee and no bag ban?
I guess Ford won that one.
Ed Conroy / November 28, 2012 at 02:36 pm
Awesome Bargain Harolds bag pic!
Arrow / November 28, 2012 at 02:36 pm
Why do they vote on things they already voted on?? And now they'll discuss it again next summer?? What a waste of time.

At least revert it back to the 5 cent fee!
Hamish Grant / November 28, 2012 at 02:39 pm
I for one hope the grocery companies keep up with the 5c fee for bags. No reason for them to stop, really. Bags have always been a net loss for grocery stores, it's time for customers to pay for what is essentially a 'frill'.
Picard102 / November 28, 2012 at 02:43 pm
Good, the fee was the dumbest piece of law. Not only did it line the pockets of retailers, the city saw absolutely none of the money. Then to try and ban bag's altogether, it's bad comedy.
Alex replying to a comment from Arrow / November 28, 2012 at 02:47 pm
You really think the stores are going to stop charging the five cents? It might not be mandatory, but it's still additional revenue.
Hamish Grant / November 28, 2012 at 03:02 pm
Honestly though, why shouldn't we pay for bags? They are a product in themselves, and the people who spoke against the ban talk about how they have multiple uses in the home. So why shouldn't grocery stores monetize them? If you don't want to pay for the store's bag, then bring your own.
PJ replying to a comment from Hamish Grant / November 28, 2012 at 03:06 pm
The cost of a bag is no more a frill than shopping carts/baskets, the ability to pay with a debit or credit card, or any other operating expenses. The cost is built into the price of the product.

There are a number of reasons for the $0.05 fee, but the grocery stores suffering a "net loss" is not one of them.
WN / November 28, 2012 at 03:21 pm
In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character repeats the same day over and over again, sometimes changing things to see if they make any difference.

Until the next election, every few months, we'll just keep on having more votes on elephants, plastic bags and various subway vs LRT and waterfront issues...

Bill Murray for mayor!
Jack / November 28, 2012 at 03:47 pm
All this kerfuffle over plastic bags. Any wonder we can't get agreement on something as complicated as the subway/streetcar, oops excuse me, LRT, debate?
Ace McNugget / November 28, 2012 at 03:58 pm
Best news all week!
Hamish Grant replying to a comment from PJ / November 28, 2012 at 03:59 pm
Entitlement at its finest! You're just so used to getting something for free you can't see the illogic in it. You don't take the cart away from the store, it stays there. The interac/cc machine is there for your convenience but it also stays in the store, and provides valuable customer purchase tracking data to the corporation that owns the store and also to your credit card company. Plastic bags are a convenience item that is removed from the store with the rest of the customer's purchases. The grocery company has to recoup the cost of these bags, and has, before the introduction of the fee, been building this into the cost of doing business. Now they have an opportunity to charge consumers for them, and I completely agree. There's no such thing as a free lunch.
Todd replying to a comment from Hamish Grant / November 28, 2012 at 04:22 pm
I'd buy your contradictory statement if grocery stores would reduce prices, but you and I both know they're not going to do that.

Anyway you slice it, stores are now pocketing a nickel for something that was wrapped into the cost of the product (for decades) prior to this ban.
Ford4ever replying to a comment from Hamish Grant / November 28, 2012 at 04:26 pm
Where do you draw the line? Should there be a fee for produce bags? How about bags at the bulk counter?

I like how the 5-cent fee got people thinking, but it's hard to defend the fee (and the ban) with logic.

Ace McNugget / November 28, 2012 at 04:26 pm
Agreed, Todd. And to top it off no chain stores offer non-branded bags- it all ties into a broader marketing plan but they now offer us this promotional material at higher than cost price.
Ace McNugget / November 28, 2012 at 04:36 pm
But seriously, in a week which has seen the democratic process take a battering this ban being overturned is a welcome reminder that the public should be involved in the decision making process.
CaligulaJones / November 28, 2012 at 04:38 pm
I have to start paying more attention to all these boomerang moments that some would call "decisions", but seem to have no relation to what the word actually means. For a minute there, I had a vision of an elephant walking down Jarvis, rubbing out a white line with a plastic bag, then heading back to the TTC tunnels.

I guess the first cold of the season and city council don't mix...
Ford4ever replying to a comment from Ace McNugget / November 28, 2012 at 04:50 pm
"in a week which has seen the democratic process take a battering"

Whoa! Whaaaaaaa?

An elected official ran afoul of serious guidelines, refused to correct his actions when given chances, and was removed.

Harsh? Yes. But it's the system working more or less as it should. And our elected officials will decide how to proceed from here.

j-rock replying to a comment from Ace McNugget / November 28, 2012 at 04:58 pm
The democratic process did not "take a battering" this week. Rob Ford did. Checks and balances on elected officials' behaviour are a critical element of any functioning democracy. And while you may not agree with the decision, this week proved, very clearly, that the system works.

He wasn't deposed by the military in a leftist coup, although if you listen to talk radio, that's pretty much how they see it. Rather, he was found guilty by a judge for violating a very simple law that he should have been more than aware of after having spent 12 years at city hall. Please spare us the dramatics.
PJ replying to a comment from Hamish Grant / November 28, 2012 at 04:59 pm
I'm having trouble following your argument. Are you suggesting the City of Toronto place a mandatory $0.05 fee on plastic bags because retailers somehow deserve to be made whole on the distribution of plastic bags?

If retailers want to charge $0.05 for a bag, they can. There is no law banning a fee.

Again, there are a number of reasons for a bag fee, but the grocery stores suffering a "net loss" is not one of them. You are so far outside the realm of reasonable justification, it's absurd.
Gloria replying to a comment from Ed Conroy / November 28, 2012 at 05:01 pm
I know re: Bargain Harolds! At first glance I thought it might be another story of old neighborhood photos. My childhood BH became a Biway and now a Salvation Army...
Aaron / November 28, 2012 at 05:18 pm
I'm sure when they're done studying it they'll just recommend a 5 cent bag fee. It was the right solution in the first place, and Ford just screwed things up as usual.
Rmund / November 28, 2012 at 05:55 pm
I'm a member of the "plastic bag groups", and I approve this article.
Steven / November 28, 2012 at 06:03 pm
The money wasted by council from the start of the bag mess-up cost more than what mayor Ford was raising cash, about $3,000.

Don't think the mayor should lose his job, but the councillors... YES! This bag mess has cost US a heck of a lot more than $3,000. Think about other important matters that could have been attended to. The councillors made the bags a political issue. Hey councillors, better look for a job elsewhere come next election. You have no merit at city hall anymore!

Hamish Grant replying to a comment from PJ / November 28, 2012 at 07:28 pm
Nope, not advocating a city ordered tax... I'm saying that retailers have been giving away bags forever but there's no reason they have to. If they want to charge, then people will pay it or use reusable bags. Simple. I don't even understand why this is a thing at all. It's more than reasonable.
Stevan replying to a comment from Steven / November 28, 2012 at 07:33 pm
Hey Stevan:

"The councillors", regardless of how much of a blow hard or douchebag they may be, are entitled to vote however they damn well please on any motion before council. Even if it costs money. Even if that decision is reversed months later.

Also, once again, for the record: Rob Ford's current situation has nothing to do with $3000 technically. He broke the law by voting on a matter in which he had an interest and willfully disregarded the act of parliament that governs his elected position. Period. None of "the councillors" did that.

You have no merit anywhere.
BM replying to a comment from Chris on Bay St / November 28, 2012 at 08:08 pm
I absolutely agree Chris.
David / November 28, 2012 at 08:09 pm
My local No Frills has been charging a nickel for bags for what seems forever. I have a choice, I can buy a bag (or two) or bring my own. I always bring my own, but since their bags are sturdy and very suitable as garbage bags, I do occasionally stock up.
BM replying to a comment from Chris on Bay St / November 28, 2012 at 08:10 pm
How about donating the money to a worthwhile charity rather than the stores just making a profit from this.
This city is becoming a joke.
Suds / November 28, 2012 at 09:46 pm
Gotta love the hypocracy of all the lefty hipsters. All of sudden the law is the law, it's black or white, guilty or not, even if it's a technicality. Funny how they don't use the same reasoning when protesters smash windows or apply it to one of their hug-a-thug programs. Marijuana is illegal but we should just let that slide at one of your weekend drum circles in the park, eh? It's OK to break the law as long as it supports a lefty cause. Next time a lefty councillor gets caught at a rub-and-tug we should bring the hammer down!!!
WEB replying to a comment from Chris on Bay St / November 28, 2012 at 10:35 pm
What Chris does is the best thing for the environment. Is it better to: 1) Pack your groceries with a plastic bag, then use that bag for another use; or 2) Pack your groceries with a plastic bin or reusable bag, which will get thrown out sooner or later AND then buy plastic bags for the same things that Chris uses his plastic shopping bags for?

I guess the problem is, not everyone will do what Chris does and thus banning plastic shopping bags is better for the environment.

Ford4ever replying to a comment from Suds / November 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm
Suds, you talk as though the Left has a monopoly on hypocrisy ... and dope.

Have you forgotten Rob Ford's arrest in Florida? Or Rahim Jaffer's coke charges here in Ontario?

Everyone talks big on law and order, but they sure are glad for leniency when it suits them.
Brad / November 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm
Thank goodness the city is now run by lawyers.

I like the bags
Jay / November 29, 2012 at 06:35 am
@ Brad - a little tongue in cheek but you're so correct. This whole incident of using a minor technicality to remove an elected politician has set a bad precedent. Even Adam Vaughan said this fiasco is not good. This city will be run by lawyers in short time. Short sighted action by a few to win a battle. In the end this will be bad for everyone.
Ace McNugget / November 29, 2012 at 02:17 pm
Yes Jay, the city is in a much worse state than it was when ROb Ford came into office. No matter how many problems people had with his proposed policies (and there were a lot) so many people preferred instead to point out that he was overweight and focus on his eating habits. These sort of comments were usually smug and in very poor taste and would normally only befit the pages of some tawdry gossip magazine. Then when a committed group of people couldn't take the fact that he was elected mayor of this city using established democratic process they didn't want to waste their time opposing his policies and instead decided to try to oust him on a technicality over a relatively small infraction which, frankly, should have been tackled at the time.

Yes, this is now a city of gossip mongerers who want to overturn every democratic decision they don't agree with. Welcome to the new Toronto
Jaki / November 29, 2012 at 08:12 pm
this is great news!!!..
for folks like us living in the city... you need bags to carry things when you have to walk take ttc everywhere- I will still use my cloth bags - but it is great to know that I can still get a bag- btw.. I reuse those said bags over and over again.. so it does get recycled. and better to use these bags- then have to buy new garbage bags- which totally contradicts the purpose of being green..
Jack / November 30, 2012 at 11:00 am
I still need plastic bags to catch and throw out my garbage with so it's not like a plastic bag ban would have turned plastic bag use from 100% to 0%. That's absurd. The only effect of such a ban would have been that we will have to pay for big garbage bags...but once again...plastic bag usage would still persist. I can't use reusable cloth bags or paper bags to dispose garbage in. I would rather get my garbage bags for free instead of paying Glad for them. That's just common sense. That's what David Miller was missing when he imposed this $0.05 fee and what David Shiner and those dumb ass councillors were missing when this ban was voted in. You just make us pay more for ZERO effect on plastic bag usage.

And to David Shiner...I'm NEVER voting for you ever again!!!
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Toronto bans shark fin
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