The City of Victoria has announced it will seek to leave appeal the B.C. Court of Appeals decision that struck down the city’s ban on single-use plastic bags.
The bylaw, which was passed in December 2017 and came into effect in July 2018, prevented stores from offering or selling single-use plastic bags to customers. Businesses were also required to charge at least 15 cents for paper bags and one dollar for reusable bags.
But in July 2019, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that because Victoria’s primary aim in enacting the ban was the environment, it required approval from the province.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps made the announcement about the city’s next steps at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention in Vancouver. According to the city, they will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review the B.C. Court of Appeal decision to clarify a municipal government’s power to regulate unsustainable business practices that negatively impact the community.
“The B.C. Court of Appeal decision goes far beyond the issue of plastic bags. It strikes at the heart of the power of local governments to regulate business practices in line with 21st-century community values,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said. “If the decision is allowed to stand it can potentially be interpreted to severely limit the power of local governments. This is why the City of Victoria is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.”
According to the City of Victoria, the Court of Appeal decision “runs contrary to a principle previously mentioned by the Supreme Court of Canada that law-making and implementation are often best achieved at a level of government that is closest to the citizens affected and therefore most responsive to their needs and to local distinctiveness.”
“The city believes that the Court of Appeal applied a very restrictive interpretation of municipal power to regulate business, which could potentially affect other municipal bylaws not only in Victoria but across B.C. and in other provinces that have similar municipal legislation. Therefore, this case raises issues of general importance and warrants consideration by the Supreme Court of Canada,” a statement from the city said.
Helps was joined in Vancouver by Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne and Squamish Mayor Karen Elliot. Squamish is working to develop a bylaw to eliminate single-use plastic items. Tofino and Ucluelet have banned plastic bags and straws.
“Large and small local governments across British Columbia are enacting bylaws that regulate the use of single-use plastics, in response to the strong wishes of their citizens and businesses. These local governments are not wavering in their commitment, but a review of the BC Court of Appeal decision is critical,” Osborne said. “Most municipalities simply don’t have the resources to respond to legal challenges or take issues like these all the way through the court system, so I welcome the City of Victoria’s decision and deeply appreciate their leadership.”
The Supreme Court of Canada will decide whether or not to hear the appeal. The city’s deadline to apply is Sept. 30. The city says it normally takes between four and six months for that decision to be made.