Victoria council to vote on revised plastic-bag ban

After being turned aside by the Supreme Court of Canada last week, the City of Victoria has already revised its ban on single-use plastic bags and will vote this week on sending it to the B.C. government for approval.

A staff report going to committee of the whole on Thursday recommends that council give three readings to the amended bylaw and forward it to Environment Minister George Heyman.

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“In light of the Supreme Court of Canada declining to hear the city’s appeal, the only way for [the] city to implement the regulations first introduced in the 2018 bylaw is to re-enact the bylaw under the authority to protect the natural environment and seek provincial approval for it,” the staff report says.

The original bylaw was passed in 2018 and faced an immediate court challenge from the Canadian Plastic Bag Association.

Victoria won in B.C. Supreme Court, but lost at the B.C. Court of Appeal, which struck down the bylaw last July on the grounds that it was an environmental measure rather than a business regulation, and that the city failed to get the necessary provincial approval.

City staff say the new bylaw has been revised to make clear that it is being adopted for the protection of the environment.

The penalties have been amended as well, so that anyone violating the bylaw faces a minimum fine of $100 or a maximum of $10,000. The previous bylaw had separate penalties for individuals and corporations, but staff say the new provisions are consistent with current practice and “provide flexibility for the courts to impose a fine that is truly appropriate to the circumstances.”

Mayor Lisa Helps made clear last week that the city planned to resurrect its bylaw.

“There’s clearly no longer a social licence for single-use items in our communities,” she said, adding she hopes the province will approve the bylaw, then work to change legislation so local governments can deal with single-use items on their own.

“The minister of environment is a very busy fellow,” she said. “The province’s Clean B.C. plan is amazing. And I’m sure that he would love his attention and the attention of his staff to be put on implementing Clean B.C., not approving bylaw after bylaw after bylaw from local government.”

Clean B.C. is a provincial program that includes rebates to improve the energy efficiency of homes, efforts to reduce industrial pollution, and promotion of low-emissions transportation.

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