Convenience stores threatening legal action over city’s bag ban
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012 2:11PM EDT
A man walks along the street with plastic bags, May 2012. (AP / Jae C. Hong)
The Ontario Convenience Store Association is asking the city to reverse the plastic bag ban that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
Toronto city council voted in July to eliminate all plastic bags given to customers at retail stores. Instead retailers will distribute paper bags.
The Association is now threatening legal action because of the lack of response they received from city councillors with their concerns, CEO Dave Bryans told CTV Toronto Wednesday. Bryans said the Association was never consulted, calling the motion “ill-informed” on how critically it will affect small businesses.
The Association’s lawyer sent a demand letter on Sept. 5, 2012 to the city outlining its arguments against the plastic bag ban. The letter states that the ban falls outside of the city’s jurisdiction and was approved without proper consultation. The letter also states that the ban is vague and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
According to Bryans, the letter urges council to revoke the ban immediately. If the council fails to rescind the ban, the Association will take further legal action to protect small businesses, said Bryans.
Bryans said the plastic bag ban was “done with a sweep of a pen, one vote and no consultation.” He is asking the city to come back to the table and have a well-informed discussion on how this will affect small businesses.
The Canadian Plastics Industry Association responded to the ban by launching a website, AllAboutBags.ca, on Monday to highlight the environmental impacts of re-usable plastic bags.
Joe Hruska, consultant on plastic’s post-use recovery for CPIA, told CTV Toronto on Wednesday that they haven’t talked about legal action yet. Instead, he hopes this website will prepare councillors to make more informed policy decisions regarding plastic bags.
Approximately 90 per cent of bags in Canada come from plants in Canada. In the GTA alone, 5,000 jobs will be at stake in the plastic industry once the bag ban is in effect.
“It’s totally unnecessary as Toronto has one of the best systems around to manage bags,” said Hruska “What’s really unfortunate is there will be no environmental gain.”
Approximately 2,500 convenience stores are located in the Greater Toronto Area alone. Bryans said these businesses rely on “high impulse” purchases, meaning consumers do not come prepared with reusable bags. Bryans said customers “will not purchase from us” resulting in a huge impact on these smaller stores.
“Stores will close if customers choose to buy items like pop and milk during planned purchases at large box stores,” said Bryans. “The whole thing has been so ill thought out.”
Bryans said the association has received no response from the city solicitor or any councillors that were given the letter.
Bryans also hopes to see more retail groups come forward.
Coun. Karen Stintz said the issue may be presented at the upcoming city council meeting next week. The agenda has not yet been released on the city’s website.
“I certainly don’t think we need a plastic bag ban in Toronto,” Stintz told CTV Toronto on Wednesday. “There is a plastic bag making company located in Toronto, certainly there will be an impact to those retailers.”
The five-cent plastic bag fee was eliminated as of July 1, 2012. Retailers have since been allowed to choose whether or not to charge for plastic bags.
During a council meeting on Jun. 6, 2012, Coun. David Shiner introduced a debate to scrap plastic bags completely.
The council voted 24-20 in favour of passing the motion to ban plastic bags entirely from stores starting on Jan. 1, 2013. Instead retailers will hand out paper bags, and consumers are encouraged to adopt reusable bags.
Mayor Rob Ford called the surprise vote to pass a citywide bag ban “the dumbest thing council has ever done.” Ford also called into a local radio station saying the ban will lead to the city “getting sued” and come with other costs too.
-With files from Matthew Coutts