With just over one month left before a ban on plastic shopping bags takes effect in Toronto, a group representing convenience stores is turning to the courts to stop it.
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association is asking the courts to quash the proposed ban, arguing city council overstepped its jurisdiction when it voted on the fly to impose the measure earlier this year. The ban also is being implemented without proper consultation, the group says in documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court on Thursday.
It calls the definition of plastic bags affected by the ban "arbitrary and discriminatory."
News of the legal challenge was welcomed by critics of the ban. "God bless 'em cause that's the most ridiculous ban I've ever heard [of] ," Councillor Doug Ford said when told about the suit.
The councillor's brother, Mayor Rob Ford, has vowed to stop the ban, even after efforts last month to reverse council's decision fell short of the two-thirds required to reopen debate.
The ban is set to take effect on Jan. 1, but before that happens, city council must approve the bylaw required to enact the prohibition at its meeting later this month. Given the new legal proceedings, council should reconsider its options, said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, another critic of the ban.
"Where we are right now with this legal proceeding moving forward, it does not make sense to me to approve the bylaw," said Mr. Minnan-Wong, who suggested council defer the matter until the legal proceedings are resolved. "To do otherwise would create a level of confusion to consumers, businesses and retailers, which I think is not responsible."
Earlier this week, the city's public works committee heard from citizens and industry groups on the implementation of the bylaw, a response to criticism about the lack of consultation. At the end of that meeting, Mr. Minnan-Wong encouraged private industry to sue the city in the hopes of getting the ban scrapped. "We're leaving it to the private sector to save us from our own madness," he said. "What I mean by that is they have to save us by hopefully going to court and having this stupidity overturned."
With a challenge before the courts, he said the city will not enforce the bylaw until it is resolved, even if council decides to approve it.
The industry group predicts that prohibiting owners of small stores from providing plastic carryout bags is likely to deter shoppers from buying from convenience operators.
"Torontonians don't normally drop into convenience stores with reusable bags," the association's CEO, Dave Bryans, said in a statement. "If merchants are prohibited from providing plastic bags, shoppers will be less likely to make purchases, and that will mean Toronto's small, family-run convenience stores will be hit hardest."