Parksville mayor Ed Mayne has written a letter to the Canadian minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna, requesting the federal government take the lead on creating national regulations on the use of plastics, including single-use plastic bags.
The letter comes after Parksville council quashed a proposed bylaw that would ban single-use plastic checkout bags in Parksville, at third reading during a Feb. 20 regular council meeting.
Coun. Adam Fras was the only member in support of the ban.
Mayne said he believes jurisdiction around single-use plastics would be better handled by the federal and provincial governments.
In his April 24 letter, Mayne wrote “Parksville council believes the issue extends beyond plastic bags and includes drinking straws, product wrapping, bottles and cosmetic products. There are 162 municipalities in B.C., not including regional districts, and if each city enacts its own plastic bag ban, this would create 162 different sets of regulations for businesses to follow.”
Mayne goes on to write that with each municipality having their own bylaws, it could lead to customer service challenges and affect customer satisfaction and business profitability.
“Franchise owners with stores in multiple locations could have different rules in each of their stores. This makes compliance more costly and confusing for businesses,” states the letter.
The letter goes on to say environmental protection is primarily a shared federal and provincial responsibility, with municipalities being delegated limited jurisdiction through the Community Charter.
“Adopting a Parksville-specific regulation will not result in fewer plastic bags being produced,” states the letter. “The city does not have the resources to develop, promote and enforce a municipal bylaw banning plastic bags. This issue appears to have been downloaded to cities because of inaction at the senior levels.”
Mayne told the PQB News that the city lacks the financial resources to enforce a municipal bylaw.
“This is [senior government’s] responsibility, they’re the ones that should be paying for it, they’re the ones that should be controlling it and that’s our stand on this,” he said. “We totally agree on single-use bans but it should come from one place and one place only, which is either the federal or provincial governments.”
Courtenay-Alberni MP, Gord Johns, whose private members motion calling for a national framework for the reduction and eventual elimination of plastic pollution in aquatic environments was passed unanimously in the House of Commons last December, said he suggested Parksville council write the letter to McKenna during a meeting last week.
“I totally understood [Parksville council’s] concerns,”Johns said. “They were frustrated about this being a situation that was being downloaded on them and they were concerned about staff time. They seemed very enthusiastic about combating plastic pollution, which was a great relief.”
Johns said he was aware Parksville council’s decision to not ban single-use plastics did “irritate some people in the community” and he suggested they write a letter to McKenna.
“I’m certainly enthusiastic and commend the effort of local governments who don’t want to wait for action from the provincial and federal governments but certainly appreciate and am grateful the city (of Parksville) has gone forward with their promise to me at that meeting last week and wrote a letter to the minister of environment and climate change,” Johns said.
Johns said currently plastic bans falls on provincial governments, but he hopes the federal government will take leadership.
“The [federal] government has announced they’re going to roll out their national strategy in response to my motion in June,” Johns said. “The NDP has asked for a ban on plastic bags and straws and unnecessary single-use plastics to be completed by 2022 in line with India and the EU. This is an issues that has been downloaded onto local governments and even provincial governments… this is the kind of leadership we’d expect at the federal government level.”