Saanich Coun. Susan Brice has been among those leading the charge to implement a ban on plastic bags at local stores. Council is scheduled to give final adoption to a bylaw banning plastic checkout bags on June 21. (Black Press Media file photo)

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice has been among those leading the charge to implement a ban on plastic bags at local stores. Council is scheduled to give final adoption to a bylaw banning plastic checkout bags on June 21. (Black Press Media file photo)

Plastic checkout bags could be banned in Saanich starting this summer

If adopted June 21, bylaw would go into effect 60 days later

Saanich shoppers are one step closer to seeing a ban on plastic bags at local stores.

On March 15, council voted unanimously in favour of bringing forward the district’s checkout bag regulation bylaw for final adoption on June 21.

According to a staff report, the bylaw was given three readings in the fall of 2019 and has also been approved by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Once adopted, the bylaw would come into effect in 60 days.

READ ALSO: Saanich prepares to implement bylaw banning plastic checkout bags in April

In December 2020, council opted to implement the bylaw in April to align with Victoria’s timeline, but staff have since recommended that the adoption be undertaken in June to allow residents and business owners time to plan for the changes.

The plastic checkout bag ban has been on council’s docket since 2018 and, while it has been a long process with many delays, if approved in June, the bylaw would come into effect Aug. 21, explained Coun. Susan Brice, a longtime proponent of the ban.

In mid-2019, council adopted an initial version of the bylaw and planned to implement it on Jan. 1, 2020. The bylaw was similar to the one Victoria implemented in July 2018 which was later struck down by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

READ ALSO: Province gives Saanich plastic bag ban bylaw the go-ahead

Saanich repealed its bylaw after Victoria’s legal battle and a replacement focused on protecting the natural environment was sent to the province for approval. Last March, B.C.’s environment minister approved plastic bag ban bylaws for Saanich, Victoria, Tofino, Ucluelet and Richmond.

Brice noted that the pandemic also played a role in delaying implementation of the bylaw as initial public health orders did not allow shoppers to bring reusable bags from home. Those orders have since been lifted.

As council has been unanimous on the bylaw all along, she expects it will be adopted with strong support on June 21. Brice hopes the 60-day waiting period will allow businesses to use their remaining plastic bag stocks and residents to prepare for the shift.

READ ALSO: City to look at options after BC Court of Appeal sides with plastic bag industry

It may take time for behaviours to change, but it’s time for this bylaw to go into effect, she said. As with any policy change, there may be some who take time to adjust, but many residents have already switched to reusable bags, so Brice feels certain the change will be welcomed.

While this bylaw isn’t the only solution to the world’s plastic pollution problem, “it’s a good start” and sends a message that Saanich is ready to take action, said Mayor Fred Haynes.

When the bylaw goes into effect, paper bags will be available at stores for no less than 15 cents and reusable bags for at least $1.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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