Victoria should have sought provincial approval before plastic bag ban: court

VICTORIA — 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 B.C. Court of Appeal says in its written ruling that the bylaw is intended to regulate businesses from providing plastic checkout bags but its aim was to protect the environment, and the effects of the bylaw are felt by businesses.

The Canadian Plastic Bag Association, which represents manufacturers and distributors of plastic bags, fought the bylaw, arguing municipalities in B.C. don't have the authority to regulate the environment or the right to block a product and financially impact manufacturers.

Under the year-old bylaw businesses are prohibited from offering or selling plastic bags to consumers and must charge at least 15 cents for paper bags and at least $1 for reusable bags.

In an earlier decision, a B.C. Supreme Court judge upheld the bylaw, ruling that cities have the power to regulate business transactions as part of their responsibility to manage waste.

The Appeal Court ruling says the environment minister's approval will ``now presumably be sought'' by the city.

``One can understand that the province might wish to have the right to approve, or withhold approval of, municipal bylaws relating to environmental protection in order to ensure that a patchwork of different municipal laws does not hamper provincial environmental programs,'' Justice Mary Newbury said in the ruling.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and a spokesperson for the Canadian Plastic Bag Association were not immediately available for comment.

Other municipalities are considering following Victoria's lead in banning single-use plastic bags. Montreal also banned plastic bags last year while other cities including Vancouver and Halifax have been mulling similar bylaws.

© 2019 The Canadian Press