The Opposition Liberals applauded the introduction of new regulations in the P.E.I. legislature Thursday that will remove a ban on canned pop, but parties outside the house were not so pleased.

'We're diverting the legislature to discuss cans or no cans.' — NDP Leader Dean Constable

Under the proposed regulations, stores will have to devote equal shelf space to beverages in refillable and non-refillable containers.

"It allows people to make that choice," said Premier Pat Binns.

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Cans will hit P.E.I. store shelves Jan. 1, 2008. ((Mark Lennihan/Associated Press))

"It gives them the opportunity to continue to use refillable glass bottles, which will continue to be bottled in Prince Edward Island. We were anxious that that be the case because we think that that is a good environmental choice, but people will ultimately shop with their desires and we give them that option."

A deposit system will be put into effect for non-refillable containers. Buyers will pay a 10 cent deposit, and get five cents back on return. Half the money collected will go to the recycling depot; the other half will be set aside for environmental projects.

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Pop bottles and cans will have to have an equal amount of shelf space. ((CBC))

The opposition to the ban has been vocal and dropping it will probably be a vote winner, with a provincial election call expected next week. But the NDP and the Green party were not pleased to see the ban go.

Without an MLA, neither party will have an opportunity to speak out in the house. When NDP Leader Dean Constable was reached by CBC News, he said he supported the ban, but didn't want to spend a lot of time talking about it.

"Here we are, we're diverting the legislature to discuss cans or no cans," said Constable.

"People are without doctors in parts of the Island, people have real questions about their water quality, of their drinking water. We have some real problems here and the Opposition and the government seem quite content to chase around things like can bans and smaller issues. What we really need to focus on here are our long-term environmental issues."

A grab for votes

Green party Leader Sharon Labchuk was also disappointed by the change, seeing it as a move to grab easy votes.

"I really hope Islanders think twice about voting for a premier who's willing to compromise on the environment, when we know that's the number1 issue we're faced with," Labchuk told CBC News.

The ban had applied to flavoured, carbonated beverages. Binns said that the growth of flavoured, non-carbonated beverages— such as sports drinks— was part of what led to the lifting of the ban.

Another factor was the increased importing of cans by Islanders. Recycler Charlottetown Bottle and Metal told CBC Newsit's been seeing more pop cans every year.

Jobs were also an issue with the can ban, with many seeing the ban as protecting the bottling plant in Charlottetown. Until 2002, it was the family-owned company Seaman's Beverages, but it was bought out by Pepsi.

The government expects a few jobs will be lost at the plant.Pepsi plans to retool part of the plant so that non-refillable pop bottles can be made for the Ontario market, which will save some jobs.