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Philip Preville: Shark fins, pet store puppies, plastic bags—why Toronto city councillors like to ban things

Philip Preville: Big Ban TheoryRob Ford’s victories rarely last. In fact they only become more stunted as his mayoralty lurches along. For his opening salvo in office he killed Transit City; less than two years later it was reborn. Now his wins can be measured
in minutes.

On June 6, council approved Ford’s proposal to end the five-cent fee on plastic shopping bags. Before he had time to gloat, council members promptly voted to make Toronto the first major Canadian city to prohibit plastic grocery bags altogether. Starting next year, Toronto retailers will provide customers with paper bags.

Ford’s objection to the bag ban is quite simple: he’s a conformist. He wants Toronto to quit messing with the rules all the time and act normal like everyone else. It’s this aspect of his personality that chafes so gratingly against the city he ostensibly rules. Toronto likes to be an early adopter of righteous urbanist innovation, a forward-thinking, environmentally and socially progressive bastion of creative-classist policy-making. Our avant-gardisme has become part of
our identity.

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QUOTED: Toronto retailer slams businesses (like Metro and Shoppers) that still charge for plastic bags

It makes me sick that other stores are still charging [the plastic bag fee]. I think that it should be up to the consumer to choose if they want to come in and bring their own bags or not.

—Christy McMullen, manager of Summerhill Market in Rosedale, on why her store stopped charging for plastic bags when the city-mandated fee expired on July 1—and her disgust for businesses that continue to do so. Rob Ford’s bittersweet victory over the bag fee didn’t change a whole lot for shoppers at Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, Metro, Rexall PharmaPlus, Highland Farms and Fiesta Farms, all of which kept the fee and are raking in some serious coin—mostly for charities and other sustainable ventures, of course. For his part, Ford said last week, “I’m not the one to tell them what they should charge for their milk or their lettuce, but I don’t believe they should be charging for bags.” [National Post]

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Forget Canada Day, this weekend is all about the end of the plastic bag fee

(Image: londonista_londonist)

While most Torontonians will be scurrying to the cottage, attending Pride or setting off fireworks in their backyard this Canada Day, plastic bag lovers can fete the demise of the five-cent plastic bag fee. Council’s decision to ditch the mandatory fee officially comes into effect this Sunday—though, of course, the bags will only be available until the outright ban starts January 1. Plus, Loblaws and several other retailers have said they’ll continue to charge five cents per bag. So, actually, there’s really not very much for plastic bag lovers to celebrate (you should probably put away that plastic bag party dress). [Toronto Sun]

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QUOTED: Adam Vaughan explains what raccoons have to do with his proposed bullet ban

(Image: Neil McIntosh)

There’s no rational reason to own a gun in the city. Gophers aren’t chewing up our fields, we have no black bears going through our garbage bins, and the raccoons aren’t dangerous enough.

—Councillor Adam Vaughan, on why a bylaw restricting the storage, sale and use of ammunition in Toronto makes perfect sense given the city’s lack of dangerous critters. However, gun control legislation tends to be contentious, and critics, including Rob Ford, are already saying such a ban would unfairly target hunters—and wouldn’t necessarily curb gun violence, since gang members will surely find a way to get ammunition. Vaughan doesn’t buy any of that, saying he’ll table his motion at the next council meeting, now that the recent plastic bag ban has the ban ball rolling. [National Post]

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Reaction Roundup: the plastic bag ban and why it’s bad for Rob Ford

(Image: zeevveez)

The abrupt decision to ban plastic bags in Toronto was a surprise to everyone (even David Shiner, who introduced the motion at council last week). Now that enough time has passed to progress beyond the “what the heck just happened” phase, the city’s columnists are weighing in on the unpredictable vote and whether it amounts to a sucker punch to Rob Ford (the consensus: yes).

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Toronto will get a six-month plastic bags free-for-all, and then no bags at all

(Image: zeevveez)

A strange series of events at city hall yesterday saw council vote with Rob Ford to nix the five-cent plastic bag fee—and then completely blindside the mayor by deciding to ban bags altogether (surprise!). That means, starting July 1, retailers will be allowed to give away bags for free to plastic-loving Torontonians…but only until January 1, when the bagopolooza ends and the ban kicks in. What makes the vote especially discouraging for Ford is that it wasn’t some bicycle-riding, latte-sipping pinko councillor who introduced the motion, but David Shiner, an ally and member of his executive committee—who openly admitted to coming up with the idea mid-meeting. Ford was visibly upset after the vote, “blinking rapidly,” speculating the city would be sued over the ban and telling radio host John Oakley, “It’s the dumbest thing council has done, and council has done some dumb things.”  If it stands, Toronto will be the first major Canadian city to have a plastic bag ban (sorry, Fort McMurray, apparently you don’t count). [Toronto Star]

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Rob Ford and Karen Stintz finally find something to agree on: free plastic bags

After a very public rift over transit, Rob Ford and Karen Stintz are back on the same side, and it’s all because of the plastic bag fee. The Toronto Sun reports that Stintz plans on voting with the mayor to kill the 5-cent plastic bag fee during Wednesday’s city council meeting (Ford vowed to scrap the fee last month). Not that Stintz will likely return full-time to her former place in the Ford fold—the fee is a smallish matter and one Stintz never liked in the first place, having voted against the so-called bag tax when David Miller introduced it in 2009. [Toronto Sun]

(Images: Karen Stintz, Mike Beltzner; Rob Ford, Christopher Drost; plastic bag, londonista_londonist)

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Rob Ford thinks the plastic bag fee did what it came to do and should now retire

(Image: Ed Yourdon)

Toronto has faced a “war on cars,” a “war on bikes” and a “war on children,” and now the “war on plastic bags” is claiming Rob Ford’s attention—again. The mayor has renewed his calls to eliminate the five-cent bag fee, saying it has successfully changed consumer behaviour because it has brought plastic bag usage down by 53 per cent. The fee generates about $5.4 million for retailers every year, which councillor Michelle Berardinetti thinks should go toward the city’s struggling tree canopy. Ford, however, will ask his executive committee today to simply scrap the fee, since “it is highly unpopular among many residents” (including HST, the cost of a plastic bag balloons to about six cents). Still, even if Ford can overcome council opposition and strike down the bylaw that makes the charge mandatory, that doesn’t mean the fees will disappear: industry reps have said they‘ll probably keep charging for bags. [Toronto Sun]

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Michelle Berardinetti says the (sizable) bag tax proceeds should go to trees—not retailers

The bag tax: a win-win for trees? (Image: Terry Ross)

Toronto’s five-cent plastic bag tax could boost Toronto’s environmental cred in a new way: Councillor Michelle Berardinetti wants to put some of the cash that retailers collect—and currently keep—towards helping the city’s trees. A staff report, released today, suggests that part of the $5.4 million collected annually go towards replacing aging trees and greenery destroyed by the emerald ash borer, an invasive tree annihilator. But, though Berardinetti already brought up the idea with Rob Ford during a recent sit-down, it’s hard to imagine him supporting this idea. He’s come out strong against the bag tax in the past (and getting rid of it seems to be one of his few concrete plans for the near future). [Globe and Mail]

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