Gillian Montgomery (left) and Annie Gibson (right) of Vancouver Island Surfrider Foundation hold a mountain of plastic bags tied to a suit they brought to the Victoria City Council recently, when council discussed a staff report about council’s proposed plastic bag ban. Council will consider a draft plastic ban bylaw no later than December 2017. (Lauren Boothby/Victoria News)

Central Saanich to study Victoria’s plastic bag proposal

A proposed plastic bag ban in the City of Victoria is also being studied by Central Saanich council. In a letter sent by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, she asked neighbouring municipalities to send their thoughts on the issue in the interest of harmonizing regulations across the region.

Victoria’s proposed bylaw would ban free plastic bags and ask retailers to charge a minimum of 12 cents for a single-use paper bag. There are exemptions for bulk food items, nuts and bolts, meat, produce, prescriptions, newspapers, flowers and dry cleaning. Violators would be fined $100, or $75 if paid within 30 days.

Central Saanich Councillor Niall Paltiel said he brought this issue forward to acknowledge the impact of plastic bags on the environment, to harmonize regulations across all 13 municipalities and to ensure that small vendors would not struggle if such a ban was put into effect.

“When we’re going to add to regulation to businesses, in this case grocery businesses, we need to be even-handed and we need to be run on a similar playing field across all municipalities in the region, because if we suddenly put a ban on something in Central Saanich, a business or shopper could easily move over to Saanich or elsewhere,” said Paltiel.

Councillor Carl Jensen said in an email to the Peninsula News Review that he has received some feedback on the subject and “not everybody is supportive.”

“I would like to learn a little more about the impacts of such a ‘ban’ on our small business community before proceeding as I feel an initiative such as this that can have financial implications for their costs needs to incorporate their input and feedback,” said Jensen.

Paltiel said that some larger businesses like Thrifty Foods have already voluntarily put a similar restriction on single-use plastic bags, but smaller operations like farm stands can not benefit from economies of scale in the same way, saying that “we should be making it easier for farmers in Central Saanich, not harder.”

The council has been asked to respond to the City of Victoria by Nov. 30.

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