The Village of Cumberland is reconsidering its single-use plastic bag ban. Black Press File Photo

The Village of Cumberland is reconsidering its single-use plastic bag ban. Black Press File Photo

Cumberland ready to revisit plastic bag ban bylaw

Province changed Community Charter to give local governments more control

A Cumberland plan to ban single-use plastic bags is getting a second life.

The move comes as a response to changes by the provincial government that would permit local governments to bring in bans of certain plastic products.

The village had attempted to bring in a bylaw two years ago, as did other communities on Vancouver Island.

“I think we all know the story of the challenges this bylaw has had,” Cumberland’s economic development officer Kaelin Chambers told council at their Sept. 7 meeting.

In July 2019, the B.C. Court of Appeal struck down the City of Victoria’s bylaw to ban single-use plastic bags. The issue, as the court saw it, was that the local government had overstepped its jurisdiction by imposing a bylaw that impinged on provincial environmental jurisdiction, as opposed to adhering to local matters such as business or commercial regulation.

Chambers told council that Cumberland’s version of a plastic ban bylaw was his first for the village, and he described the action of councils like Victoria and Tofino as a “bold move.”

In September 2019, Cumberland joined other communities like Tofino and Squamish to work toward a resolution that would allow local governments to regulate single-use plastic bags. In the time since, the province has updated the Community Charter, which regulates municipal government powers, to allow local jurisdictions to regulate matters such as plastic bans. Now, Cumberland plans to review the bylaw as it was passed.

“It’s not a lot of work,” he said. “It’s closed some loopholes that … we recognized right away, especially around accessibility.”

The bylaw had been adopted in 2019 and now must be compliant with the Community Charter.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland joins other communities in plastic ban response

Mayor Leslie Baird said she did have concerns after the experience from two years ago.

“I don’t want to see us going backwards,” she said.

At the latest meeting, council passed a motion to have staff produce a report with recommendations on any measures they will need to enact the bylaw.

Included in the agenda for the Sept. 7 meeting was an email from a provincial government policy analyst in July noting that nine municipal plastic ban bylaws had received ministerial approval over the past year. The correspondence also sets out the items in question, including checkout bags, polystyrene foam ware, by-request restrictions on utensils including stir sticks and most plastic drinking straws and by-request exemptions for straws facilitating accessibility.

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