Municipalities NL stunned by decision to delay plastic bag verdict

Environment Minister Graham Letto downplays concerns:  ‘We’re not going to please everybody’


Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador is blasting the provincial government’s decision to delay its verdict on a plastic bag ban in favour of more consultations, three years after the organization passed a resolution to ban them.

The province said Tuesday it would be conducting more public opinion research before making a final decision, despite Environment Minister Graham Letto’s assertion in mid-February that a ruling would be made in the coming weeks.

In a release Tuesday, MNL president Tony Keats said he’s completely shocked by the delay.

“We believed a ban on single-use plastic bags was imminent. Just last month the minister stated publicly that a decision — not more consultations — would happen within weeks,” said Keats in the release.

The government has been reviewing a potential plastic bag ban since October 2016, after MNL members passed a resolution to prohibit all stores in the province from distributing single-use plastic bags.

MNL represents 275 incorporated municipalities across the province and 89 per cent of the population, but only the provincial government has the power to enact a ban.

New consultations necessary: Letto

At the House of Assembly, Letto downplayed concerns about a delay and said the province still needs to hear from more stakeholders.

“I’m getting some feedback from people who don’t want this ban,” he said. “We want to make sure that their concerns are heard as well.”

When questioned by reporters on the three-year process to move toward a decision, Letto said it’s his style to consult before making an informed decision.

“I lead by consultations, and that’s where I am and I make no apologies for it.”

He said many of his stakeholders have told him they want more information on how a ban would work, and what the costs would be before it goes ahead.

“They’ve told us loud and clear that they see the need for further consultations to make sure that any plan that we implement is a plan that’s going to work.”

The province already met with many of these groups back in September, including the Canadian Plastics Industry Association and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

And just last month, the CFIB told CBC News it had come around and the organization no longer opposes the ban.

The consultations close March 27 and include an online survey that any N.L. resident is welcome to fill out.

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador worries the issue will become politicized during the upcoming provincial election and is planning to host a Day of Action on March 11 to advocate for the ban.

‘Not going to please everybody’

Letto said he hopes anyone with an interest will participate in the consultations, and he wants to make sure a potential ban would be fair to all stakeholders .

A final decision will be made after the consultation period closes near the end of March, according to Letto.

“We will meet with the stakeholders immediately after that and then we will make our decision to go to to a ban or not to.”

And whatever happens, he knows the decision is not going to make everybody happy.

“We’re not going to please everybody,” he said. “That is all true.”