Ontario Premier Doug Ford asks LCBO to bring back paper bags for customers

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The LCBO will bring paper bags back to its stores after Ontario Premier Doug Ford directed the government-owned alcohol retailer to reintroduce them.

Ford asked the LCBO to reverse its decision to stop giving customers paper bags for their alcohol purchases in a letter published Monday morning.

“At a time when many Ontario families are already struggling to make ends meet, every additional expense counts,” Ford said in a letter dated April 7 to LCBO’s president and CEO.

“That includes charging customers for reusable bags instead of the free paper bags that the LCBO previously offered.”

A spokesperson for the organization confirmed to Global News it had “received direction” from the government to bring single-use paper bags back to its stores.

“We will begin taking the necessary steps to do so,” the spokesperson said.

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“While we are not able to confirm when paper bags will be available again, we will share more details with our valued customers in the coming weeks.”

The LCBO initially announced last year in April it was getting rid of paper bags at its stores and officially phased them out on Sept. 5, 2023.

The company said the move would save the equivalent of 188,000 trees each year and divert 2,665 tonnes of waste from landfills.

Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, whose ministry oversees the arms-length LCBO, said the move was about affordability.

“(The cost) is not going to be put on the backs of consumers at the LCBO,” he told reporters Monday.

“And with this, we’re giving the people choice and convenience. They can choose to use reusable bags, they don’t have to use the paper ones. Now they have the choice.”

Opposition parties said the move shows the government is focusing its energy in the wrong place.

“I question the government’s priorities on this one,” Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said.

Ontario Liberal MPP John Fraser said that, by sending the letter, “the premier’s talking to people’s convenience.”

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“That’s all well and good,” Fraser said. “Do Ontarians want a paper bag at the LCBO? I think more Ontarians want to have a family doctor… I mean, I’m not going to be negative about it, it’s just not the most important thing facing Ontarians right now.”

Mike Schreiner of the Ontario Greens called the move a “massive distraction.”

In Ford’s letter, the premier wrote that getting rid of paper bags has “left people stuck openly carrying alcohol in public when leaving an LCBO store.”

“People rightly expect their government — and, by extension, crown corporations such as the LCBO — to be mindful of these costs and refrain from imposing additional and unnecessary burdens on them,” Ford wrote.

The LCBO only provides eight-pack carriers and boxes when available. It has reusable bags for sale.

“Paper bags are an easily recyclable alternative to single-use plastic, which is why the LCBO adopted them in the first place,” Ford noted in regards to move.

— with files from Global News’ Isaac Callan

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