Supreme Court dodges Victoria’s appeal of plastic bag-ban ruling

Supreme Court dodges Victoria's appeal of plastic bag-ban ruling

The South Island battle over the use of plastic bags has reached an impasse. The Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the city of Victoria’s appeal to a decision that struck down its plastic-bag bylaw Thursday morning.

As is usual, the court provided no reasons for its decision.

“While we are disappointed that the Supreme Court of Canada will not hear the case, there are other avenues for us to achieve our goals of eliminating plastic checkout bags and reducing waste in our community,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said in a statement Thursday morning.

“Thanks to our Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw, our community has eliminated more than 17 million plastic bags from reaching the landfill. That achievement is too great for us to turn our backs on.”

In January 2018, Victoria enacted a bylaw prohibiting merchants from providing single-use plastic bags, instead, charging for paper bag or reusable bags.

The Canadian Plastic Bag Association (CPBA), which represents manufacturers and distributors of plastic shopping bags, filed a petition for judicial review of the bylaw, before it took effect in July of 2018.

Victoria won in the province’s Supreme Court, but then lost when the CPBA appealed the decision.

Victoria had delegated authority from the province under the Community Charter, S.B.C. 2003, c. 26, to regulate in relation to business. Something that is within their power, but needs approval from the province or the Minister of Environment, which the city of Victoria didn’t do.

“The CPBA welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision. It leaves in place the appellate court decision requiring municipalities in British Columbia to follow the law and respect the limits placed on their authority when addressing environmental issues,” said the Canadian Plastic Bag Association in a press release.

“With the years-long litigation over the validity of the City’s bylaw now at an end, the CPBA looks forward to working with British Columbia’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and British Columbia municipalities to address packaging and recycling issues.”

And as this lawsuit between the City of Victoria and the CPBA reaches a dead end, there are promises of plastic regulation on the horizon, elsewhere.

The province is set to consider new regulations this year, and the federal government announced in June they would be pursuing a plastic bag ban sometime in 2021.


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