Western NL municipal leaders give their thoughts on single-use shopping bag ban issue


The Board of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) has come out and said it wants the province to have no delay or backing down on the issue of banning single-use plastic bags.

Government announced this week it plans to engage in further consultations on the issue, which MNL president Tony Keats calls a significant step backward.

He said MNL believed a ban on single-use plastic bags was imminent and that twice municipalities have voted overwhelmingly for a provincial ban on single-use plastic bags.

We checked in with some municipal representatives in Western Newfoundland to get their council’s thoughts and their personal thoughts on the issue.

Coun. Mike Tobin, Stephenville

“This is a topic that has been on the agenda of many provincial and regional municipalities meeting some time now. If there was an easy solution it would likely have been solved by now but despite being a topic on agendas at Stephenville town council meetings for some time, there has been no conclusive action on it. There are a few communities that have banned the single-use plastic bags, including Fogo Island and Twillingate and New World Island. Out town council hasn’t adopted a bylaw on it and is hoping for a provincial ban. Personally, I’d like to see several types of plastics banned, where feasible, and said the single use plastic bags is a good place to start.”

Mayor Gary Bishop, Pasadena

“Our town council supports a ban on single-use garbage bags and we let Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Graham Letto know that when he visited Pasadena last week. We decided we would support a ban but how they will enforce it may be more complicated. Once government comes to a decision after its consultation, I believe a six-month to a year phasing-in period is going to be needed, depending on what supply of these bags stores have in stock.

Personally, I support the ban as consumers already have a few options, including purchasing reusable bags at a minimum cost. While in Fort McMurray, AB, where they have a plastics bag ban in place, consumers had no choice but to bring their own bags or purchase reusable ones at the counter. I think it’s the way to go. Single-use plastic shopping bags are only a small percentage of the plastics problem, but sometimes you must start off with baby steps.”

Mayor Lisa Lucas, Stephenville Crossing

In an emailed reply, Mayor Lisa Lucas said its time for local leaders to lead the push towards ridding our environment of so much plastic.

“Many people fight or resist change in the beginning, but eventually comply and life goes on. That was seen with the clear/blue bag program and even with its problems people have complied. I think the same will apply if our province agrees to adopt this initiative of abolishing all plastic bag use. People will adapt and remember to bring their cloth bags to the store since they will have no choice. We must enable our citizens to play their part and become aware of the crisis facing our planet. Billions of tons of plastic have been produced and are polluting our oceans and ecosystems. Companies must look for more biodegradable alternatives than plastic and as a province, we must accept responsibility for the benefit of our own ocean habitats. Our town council fully supports this initiative and we’ve sent a letter to government asking for this to be passed. I’m sure there will be a bit of grumbling at first but residents will conform and do the right thing. It’s our culture.”

Mayor Dean Ball, Deer Lake

“I believe everyone, including the provincial government, MNL and the municipalities are all on the same page when it comes to wanting to protect the environment. Once you make that stand with a ban it should encompass more than just plastic bags. As a business owner I see this as being a lot bigger than just plastic bags, so if your making a move, it should also include single use plastic water bottles and other items, I’ve been following this issue for a long time and before pulling the trigger on it, have a bigger plan in place that goes much further than just the shopping bags.”

Mayor Jim Parsons, Corner Brook

“I am aware the previous city council offered a letter of support on the single-use plastic shopping bag ban. Personally, I think it’s time some of these issues dealing with the environment were tackled but the ban issue hasn’t come back to council. To me the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment doing a short consultation process on the ban makes sense since businesses need to be consulted on it. If getting plastic bags out of our environment takes a ban, then I’m all for it.”

Mayor Tony Major, Rocky Harbour

“Our council supports a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. I think there be direction to municipalities on a ban from the provincial government. They (provincial government) need to pull the trigger and decide on this and go with the ban. Personally, I wholeheartedly support a ban because of the number of plastic bags we would see in trees near their dumpsite when it was in operation and now alongside the road in many places. People are not all environmentally conscious when it comes to plastic and the mess they’re leaving for the next generations. When I go shopping with my wife we take our reusable bags back and forth and I feel everyone should be able to do that.”