After more than a year of widely-covered controversy over Toronto’s plastic bag ban, city council quietly changed its course after receiving legal advice and voted against the pending bylaw.
Toronto city councillors voted 38-7 on November 28, 2012 to stop the bag ban in its tracks. The reversal came after the Canadian Plastic Bag Association (CPBA) launched a November 19, 2012 lawsuit against the City of Toronto over the bag ban, which had been set to take effect January 1, 2013.
That news marked the second bag ban lawsuit against Toronto in November 2012. The Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) launched the first lawsuit against the city on November 15, 2012.
Toronto retailers were previously required to charge customers a mandatory five-cent fee for each plastic bag, but an attempt to abolish the bag tax earlier in 2012 led to renewed council support in favour of banning the bags altogether.
Torontonians use an estimated 215 million plastic bags each year, which amounts to some 1,400 tonnes of plastic, a City of Toronto report found.
In a news release issued before the city reversed its position, the CPBA outlined its legal filing against the city. It noted that the ban would be a hard hit to the pockets of its membership. It also said that the "council has not received any advice, evidence, or opinion from [CPBA] staff or any other person indicating that banning single-use plastic carry-out (shopping) bags would further the economic, social, and/or environmental well being of [Toronto] or would protect the health, safety and well-being of any person."
Joe Hruska of the CPBA in a written statement on November 19, 2012 that "As Toronto City Council gave no notice, undertook no public consultation, carried out no due diligence, and received no advice prior to adopting the Plastic Bag Ban, the bag ban resolution ought to be quashed for having been passed in bad faith," said Not all retailers would have been under the bag ban. Plastic bags would still have been allowed to be used for bulk and frozen food items; meat and fish; flowers; potted plants; baked goods; prepared foods; prescription drugs; dry cleaning; and newspapers.
“Without exception, members of OCSA rely on plastic bags to provide a safe, sanitary and convenient shopping experience to their customers,” wrote the OCSA in its November 2012 suit against the City of Toronto.
City council intends to revisit the bag ban issue in June 2013.