Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison has no intention of binning the city’s bylaw banning single-use plastic bags following a recent court ruling against a similar bylaw in Victoria.
On July 11, the BC Court of Appeal decided in favour of a petition put forward by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association, arguing the City of Victoria’s year-old Checkout Bag Bylaw was created to regulate business, when it was actually intended for environmental purposes, necessitating approval of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
“While the City’s intentions in passing the Bylaw were no doubt reasonable, we must give effect to the clear instructions… requiring the Minister’s approval,” wrote Justice Mary Newbury. “Whatever the reason for not seeking that approval in July 2018, it will now presumably be sought.”
Harrison says the court decision is, in a way, a good thing, as it points to the ministry becoming involved.
“UBCM (Union of B.C. Municipalities) has been trying to get the province involved for some time,” said Harrison, noting Salmon Arm’s bylaw came into effect July 1 of this year, and that it allows for a six-month transition period. “We don’t plan on doing anything this time, just watching and see what happens.”
Harrison said he doesn’t think Salmon Arm residents or businesses want to see the city reverse course on its bylaw.
“There’s a tipping point where the customer has an expectation from the retailers and I don’t think this is something that will be turning back,” said Harrison, adding Salmon Arm retailers really stepped up, working proactively with him and the city.
“They are definitely interested in doing the right thing and it’s worked for them.”
As for getting the B.C. government onboard, Harrison is reminded of how municipal governments led the way on banning smoking in restaurants.
“I was on council way back when… smoking was allowed in restaurants and the province would not get involved despite UBCM’s encouragements. So individual cities enacted the bylaws themselves.”