A bylaw drafted to implement the ban on plastic shopping bags was approved by Toronto's public works committee following deputations Wednesday, but the chair encouraged private industry to sue the city in the hopes that the ban would be scrapped.
"We`re leaving it to the private sector to save us from our own madness," said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong after the 4-2 vote. "What I mean by that is they have to save us by hopefully going to court and having this stupidity overturned."
Council has been criticized by residents, retailers and representatives from the plastics industry for approving the ban in June following a surprise motion by Councillor David Shiner. Critics have said the ban was approved without any consultations with the public.
However, Councillor Gord Perks reminded the committee and deputants that the city had conducted extensive consultations in 2008 when the idea of introducing a fee for shopping bags was under discussion. Mr. Perks said many of the speakers who deputed Tuesday were also there for the 2008 discussions, which also looked at alternative types of bags and bag bans.
The ban for single-use shopping bags will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, but fines for violations will not be issued during the first six months. The transition phase will be used to educate the public, retailers and manufacturers. This outreach is expected to cost $400,000.
Despite Mr. Minnan-Wong's opposition to the ban, he said he does not want to see a decision made by council overturned because it would set a precedent for revisiting every decision approved by council.
Mr. Minnan-Wong voted to approve the draft. He had to remind almost every one of the approximately 20 deputants that they could not speak about the pros or cons of the bylaw, and that they could only talk about how the bylaw was going to be implemented.
Almost all the speakers were not allowed to finish what they wanted to say. Deputants included Toronto residents, representatives from the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, the Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers and the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
Speakers said they were surprised they could only talk about how and when the bylaw would be implemented, and called the consultation process a joke.
Gary Rygus was one of the few people who spoke about the timing of the ban's implementation. Speaking on behalf of the Retail Council of Canada, Mr. Rygus said businesses will not be ready with bag replacements by January, especially when they will be focusing on seasonal sales in December.
Mr. Perks, who also voted in favour of the draft, said he was disappointed in Mr. Minnan-Wong for inviting lawsuits against the city.
"It's one thing to put up the best defence you can as an elected official against a policy you don't like," Mr. Perks said. "It's another to subvert the government you're a part of and invite lawsuits and throw the whole system into chaos."