The City of Victoria’s plastic bag ban is dead, at least for now.
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal from the city on Thursday, which sought to overturn a lower court ruling quashing the ban.
The city enacted a bylaw in January 2018 banning merchants from giving out plastic bags, and requiring them to make paper or reusable bags available to customers.
The ban was challenged in court by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association, and B.C.’s top court ruled in July that Victoria had exceeded its legal authority by implementing the ban without provincial approval, which is required under the province’s Community Charter.
Victoria appealed that decision but has now run out of legal options to preserve the bylaw.
In a media release, the plastic bag association welcomed the decision, which it said requires cities to “follow the law and respect the limits placed on their authority when addressing environmental issues.”
“Legislative initiatives such as the city’s bylaw, which aim to protect the environment, can have unintended and harmful effects,” said the association.
“For example, research that was available to the city has shown that plastic bags typically outperform paper bags and, from an environmental perspective, are in many ways the best packaging option, given that they can be recycled.”
“It was a longshot, so we’re disappointed but not surprised,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
Helps said the city’s next step was to take the bylaw to the Ministry of Environment and ask the province to approve it.
“Probably it won’t take the minister very long to approve a bylaw banning plastic bags. We’re not the only ones that will be submitting, I think there are a number of other local governments that have already sent their bylaws in for approval.”
She said the city will also be asking the province to amend the Community Charter to allow cities to control their own waste streams.
The City of Vancouver is enacting its own plastic bag ban, which it says is modelled on Victoria’s.
The city is governed by its own charter, rather than the Community Charter, and has the power to create its own bylaws and impose taxes without provincial approval.