TORONTO, Ont. – Toronto city council approved a motion, Wednesday, to ban retailers from providing single-use plastic bags.
In a 24-20 vote, council approved a motion that will prohibit the sale or distribution of plastic bags by retailers effective Jan. 1, 2013.
- Click here to read the city council decision report.
A delayed reaction after the motion was passed illustrated the surprise of councillors, with a mixture of laughter and applause heard in the background.
Coun. David Shiner – who said he worked with paper bags at grocery stores as a young man – was behind the proposal to ban the bags, as was obvious by his reaction.
“Just get rid of the damn bags,” Shiner said pointedly. He later admitted he was stunned when the motion passed.
Shortly after the vote there was wrangling at city hall over the procedure of the vote, as some councillors tried to have the vote re-opened, claiming proper procedure was not followed. Mayor Rob Ford called the ban the stupidest and most ludicrous thing council had ever done.
Some have accused Shiner of trying to embarrass Ford, while others said the motion was a taunt aimed at council’s left-wing that he didn’t think would ever pass. However, Shiner said politics were not at play.
“I have no motives except trying to do the right things for the citizens of Toronto,” he told reporters, Thursday.
While he received a frosty reception from some of his colleagues, Shiner found the reaction was mostly positive.
“My colleagues I think are satisfied with the results of the vote. There are a few that have some concerns. They’ll have to be realistic,” Shiner told 680News. “I got a warm reception from quite a number of people.”
“I’ve looked at my emails (Thursday) morning, and my voters – although some are concerned – many of them are extremely supportive,” he said, adding that the city will not be enforcing the ban with an iron fist and will cooperate with retailers.
“I’m not looking to fine people – I’m looking to work with people, and I’m not imagining we’re going to set up bag police.”
Shiner also promised that shoppers won’t be left without alternatives to plastic bags as the bylaw is refined.
Interestingly, council also voted to rescind the five-cent fee on plastic bags until the total ban comes into effect. This means that, beginning July 1, 2012, plastic bags will once again be free until the end of the year.
The Mayor had initially been pushing for the removal of the five-cent fee, but that motion did not originally pass in city council.
As for Ford’s reaction to the ban, Shiner believes he will see the bright side.
“I think that he’ll come around to understand it’s the right thing to do.”
Several other major cities around the world, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, Calif., and Seattle, Wash., already have similar policies in place.