City of Victoria hoping Supreme Court of Canada will rule on plastic bag ban

A woman carries a plastic bag at a market in Montreal on June 13, 2019. British Columbia's top court has quashed a bylaw prohibiting single-use plastic bags in Victoria, saying the city failed to get the approval of the province's environment minister.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson.

Victoria’s plastic bags ban could be headed for the Supreme Court of Canada.

The City of Victoria has asked Canada’s top court to review the decision that overturned the city’s bylaw to regulate the use of plastic checkout bags.

In July, the BC Court of Appeal ruled the purpose of the bylaw was the protection of the natural environment, requiring approval from the Ministry of Environment prior to being enacted. Victoria did not have that provincial approval before putting the policy in place.

“The BC 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.

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“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.”

Victoria voted to implement the ban in January 2018, with the law taking effect last July.

Under the bylaw, stores were required to shift to paper or reusable cloth bags.

WATCH: (June 29, 2018) B.C.’s capital banning single-use plastic bags

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s capital banning single-use plastic bags July 1st'
B.C.’s capital banning single-use plastic bags July 1st

Retailers were initially required to charge a 15-cent fee for paper bags and $1 for reusable bags. The fee climbed to 25 cents and $2, respectively, on Jan. 1 of this year.

In June 2018, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld Victoria’s bylaw in the face of a challenge by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association.

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The B.C. government is currently in the midst of public consultation around plastic use in the province.

The City of Victoria is asking the Supreme Court to clarify a municipal government’s power to regulate unsustainable business practices that negatively impact the community.

There are concerns from other jurisdictions that the legal decision could have an impact on them as well.

“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,” District of Tofino Mayor Josie 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.”

Tofino and Ucluelet enacted their shared plastic bag ban earlier this year.

Under the Supreme Court’s rules, the court decides whether or not it will hear the appeal. A decision is expected to come between four to six months from now.

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—With files from Simon Little

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