City of St. John's says power to ban plastic bag falls to province, province says that could change

Council has voted in favour of banning the bag a few times, but says the power to legislate lies with the province. The province says that could change.

The rules to enforce the ban? Right now it's not our bag, says City of St. John's

Bye-bye bags? City says they need the folks in the Confederation Building to ban the bag. (Twitter/@grrbage )

The power to ban the bag may fall to the City of St. John's after all.

St. John's city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to support a ban on single-use plastic bags. It's not the first time they've passed this vote.

"I believe this is probably the third time I've voted on this," said Mayor Danny Breen. "I really don't want to vote on this a fourth time."

Danny Breen said he's voted on this motion three times before and doesn't want to do it a fourth time. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

But council doesn't have the power to legislate a bag ban, said Breen. That power rests with the provincial government.

"Repeatedly we've sent this to the province, repeatedly there's been no action taken," he said.

100 million bags a year

This time around, the motion was presented in September by Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O'Leary. It called for lobbying efforts in support of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador's quest to ban single-use plastic shopping bags in the province.

While calling for an official vote at Tuesday's council meeting, O'Leary said the province uses 100 million single-use plastic shopping bags each year. The city also spends thousands of dollars a year on litter screens to keep them from blowing out of the landfill, she said.

'Look at Costco'

Debbie Hanlon is also a returning councillor, and has voted on this motion before.

"I'm certainly in support of banning plastic bags," she said. "Look at Costco, they don't have any bags at all."

The best city council can do for the bag ban is lobby, said at-large councillor Debbie Hanlon. (CBC)

Hanlon says in order for the motion not to come before council again, the provincial government has to step up — the power to change rules or legislation to enact a bag ban doesn't rest with city council.

It rests, she said, with the provincial government.

"Come on, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, get this done for all of us," she said.

Province says power may shift

According to the province, a ban on plastic bags is a "major issue."

Eddie Joyce, minister of environment and municipal affairs, says the province has been working on it with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and conducted a study looking at bag bans across Canada.

He said that so far, no province has banned the bags. He also said that government is reviewing the Municipalities Act, and that could put the power to sack plastic bags in the hands of cities and towns.

"There is potential to give municipalities the option that they can ban it, so instead of the province each municipality can say, 'Okay, we have the authority now to ban plastic bags.'"