Toronto City Council to Rethink Plastic Bag Fee
Posted by Ted Duboise
Toronto Mayor Objects to Five-Cent Plastic Bag Fee | Plastic Bag Ban Report
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, May 17, 2012 (ENS) - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his Executive Committee have voted to trash the city's five-cent plastic bag fee effective July 1.
Following the 6-1 vote on Monday, the full Toronto City Council will consider next month whether or not to rescind the fee bylaw introduced by former mayor David Miller three years ago.
"I just asked the councilors to listen to their constituents; listen to the taxpayers and let's do away with it," Ford told reporters after the Executive Committee vote.
To reduce the volume of plastic bags and encourage people to shop with reusable bags, Toronto stores are now required to charge a minimum of five cents per plastic bag requested by customers at checkout.
Since the campaign that brought him into office in 2010, Mayor Ford has objected to the plastic bag fee, claiming it inconveniences consumers and unfairly benefits retailers.
Many retailers have extended the plastic bag fee across the province of Ontario and across Canada. Industry representatives say their members are likely to continue charging for plastic bags even if the Toronto bylaw is rescinded.
Plastic Bag Fee A Success
Mayor Ford says the fee has served its environmental purpose because it has changed consumer habits.
Pointing to the fact that single-use plastic bag use has dropped by 53 percent since the fee was imposed in June 2009, the mayor wants to declare the fee a success and lift it.
The mayor says many Toronto residents view the bag fee as a tax imposed by the city, although none of the money raised goes into the city's treasury.
Among this segment of the population the nickel charge is unpopular.
Sally Potter of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation objects that Toronto shoppers pay four taxes on single-use plastic bags - garbage fees, the fees that retailers pay to Stewardship Ontario, and the federal-provincial Harmonized Sales Tax, as well as the five-cent user fee.
But there is another segment of the Toronto population that wants the city to retain the fee.
Councilor Michelle Berardinetti, the only member of the Executive Committee to vote against lifting the fee, represents this group.
Berardinetti has been trying to persuade retailers to donate part of the bag fee to the city's tree canopy programs. Toronto has than four million trees on public lands and six million more on private property.
On February 13, the issue again took center stage when the Executive Committee voted against a motion brought by Councilor Paul Ainslie to scrap the plastic bag fee bylaw entirely.
Instead, the Executive Committee voted to consider Berardinetti's motion to give stores a tax receipt if they donate collected bag fees to urban forest enhancement.
When the full City Council takes up the matter at their June 6-7 meeting, Mayor Ford may not prevail in his attempt to scrap the fee.
Most Councilors in Favor of Fee
A survey of city councilors conducted by the "Toronto Sun" newspaper in December that found just over half of council, 23 councillors, are in favor of retaining the bag fee.
Emily Alfred, waste campaigner with the nonprofit Toronto Environmental Alliance, says that although the umbrella group initially wanted a plastic bag ban, they are pleased with the success of the bag fee program. "It's a great way to get people to reduce disposable packaging," she said.
In addition, a grassroots petition posted on the website Care2's petition site urges the Toronto City Council to keep the fee and direct the money collected towards protecting and expanding Toronto's tree cover.
"Removing the charge will not solve this issue!" the petition states. "It will only encourage the use of more plastic bags, with huge environmental consequences both locally through their disposal and globally through the continued use of petroleum products."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.
Cover photo: Toronto City Hall at Night. Author: Benson Kua. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Toronto_City_Hall_night_view.jpg