The mayor of Rossland says Thursday’s court ruling overturning Victoria’s plastic bag ban won’t affect Rossland’s planned bylaw.
“As far as I’m concerned, at this point, we’re going forward on Monday and we’ll see what happens,” says Mayor Kathy Moore. “The plastic industry has won this round, but the writing is on the wall.
“They’re not likely to prevail in the greater battle.”
Moore was reacting to a ruling by the B.C. Court of Appeal in favour of the Canadian Plastic Bag Association (CPBA), which found the capital city’s bylaw invalid.
The Court of Appeal decision said the Victoria’s definition of the bylaw’s purpose was not consistent with its after-effects. The court found that the dominant, underlying purpose of the bylaw was to protect the natural environment, which falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial government.
But Moore says Rossland, which patterned its bylaw after Victoria’s, was taking a slightly different path with its bylaw.
“Our bylaw, should it be adopted, … it basically gives the next few months for time for behaviour change, education initiatives, and time for people to look at other resources,” she says. “There’s no enforcement, until January and not before, so there’s really no impact.
“So if people don’t want to comply with it, they don’t have to.”
Moore noted the court ruling was on a specific point of law.
“The judgment turned on a very narrow interpretation, that the City of Victoria was actually legislating an environmental concern that was actually the mandate of the provincial government,” she says. “The lower court saw a legitimate business reason for doing this, while the appellate court said ‘no, this is environmental legislation cloaked as something else’.
“They didn’t say the city was acting in bad faith or was doing anything negative, they just said they exceeded their mandate.”
She says bylaw or not, there’s a good majority of individuals or businesses in Rossland that have already made the switch.
“A matter of time”
And Moore notes that all B.C. municipalities have called for a ban on single use plastic, and the federal government is also pondering legislation.
“It’s just a matter of time before the larger legislative bodies catch up with the ‘aggressive’ cities of Victoria and Rossland,” she said, jokingly.
Rossland’s city council had planned to give final approval to its bylaw to ban single-use bags from stores within city limits on Monday.
Providing a check-out bag except as allowed in the bylaw, providing a bag when the customer didn’t want one, or refusing to use a customer’s reusable bag, all carry a $100 fine per offence. It’s about half that for individuals violating the bylaw.
Businesses can be charged up to $10,000 for repeated violations of the bylaw, individuals up to $500.
While she would like to see it passed, Moore says it’s up to the other councillors to decide if they want to move forward, or put the brakes on until the legal question is settled.
Meanwhile, Victoria city council has to meet to decide its next steps.