P.E.I.’s environment minister says the province will look to expand its own single-use plastics ban now that a Federal Court of Canada judge has ruled a ban Ottawa planned to impose was “unreasonable and unconstitutional.”
Prince Edward Island was the first province in Canada to ban single-use plastic bags, with a law that came into effect in July 2019.
Since then, Steven Myers said Friday, the province has been in a “holding pattern” after the federal government said it would take the lead on further reductions in single-use plastics.
In the aftermath of Thursday’s ruling by Federal Court Justice Angela Furlanetto, the environment minister told the legislature P.E.I. can build “a model of sustainability for Islanders that can be mimicked across Canada…. We intend to be leaders in everything that we do on an environmental profile and we’re going to look at doing something in this realm.”
The Trudeau government had planned to ban the sale of single-use plastic shopping bags, cutlery, food service ware, stir sticks and straws after Dec. 20.
In order to have the power to do that, the federal government had listed the items as “toxic.”
That led to a court challenge by a group of major industrial players in plastics, including Dow Chemical, Imperial Oil and Nova Chemicals. They argued that Ottawa had failed to demonstrate it had enough scientific evidence to justify the regulations.
‘I’m talking about lifetimes and generations’
On P.E.I., Myers said he’s seeking advice as to whether the province’s longstanding plastic bag ban would survive a legal challenge if manufacturers launched one based on Furlanetto’s ruling, which itself might still face an appeal attempt in front of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The P.E.I. bag ban was brought forward in a private member’s bill introduced by former Liberal MLA Allen Roach in 2018.
As for expanding it to include other single-use plastic items, Myers said the province intends to move quickly but will hold public consultations.
“I hear a lot of complaints about the paper straws and I would say they’re probably less than adequate when it comes to straws,” the environment minister told reporters Friday.
“But I think at the same time we have to have some recognition that the things that we use have further impacts that are outside of our lives…I’m not talking about 10 years or five years, I’m talking about lifetimes and generations.
“I know eating with a wooden fork isn’t as good as eating with a plastic fork, but if that’s the inconvenience that you’re going to be stuck with, I’m okay with delivering that.”
Progressive Conservative backbench MLA Zack Bell raised the issue of the ban in the legislature Friday.
He said while many Islanders support banning single-use plastics, “critics say the replacement products are of a lesser quality, they pose difficulties for seniors and people who are not able-bodied, and they also add extra costs for businesses here on the Island.”