Rob Ford decides to sack the Toronto bag fee

Rob Ford decides to sack the Toronto bag fee

Toronto's plastic bags may go from fee to free (Image: Carolina Naftali) 

Back during the 2010 mayoral election, Rob Ford was asked what he thought of the five cents plastic bag fee by the Toronto Sun, and said he’d kill it.  That was in August.  By late September, he was qualifying things and saying he might only redirect the nickel charge to something else (something the city cannot do). Well, the New Year is here and the mayor has come back to where he started, and believes the five-cent bag fee has to die. Just one bag snag: the surcharge might not be that easy to kill.

From the Post:

Mayor Rob Ford told the National Post this week he wants to quash the “bag tax,” which isn’t technically a tax because all the proceeds go to retailers, not the government.

But since the current bylaw requires stores to charge a nickel (often six cents, if the HST is added in) for every plastic bag, simply revoking it doesn’t mean that retailers have to stop, according to Rino Cipolletta, a manager of parks and waste enforcement in the city’s municipal licensing and standards division.

“If [council] cancels it and says it’s up to the store owners,” said Mr. Cipolletta, “they can continue with the plastic bag 5 cents if they want to.”

And some very well may, given that major retailers like Loblaws are charging for bags across the country.

While it’s certainly possible that retailers may stand up to customers on this, the mayor is nothing if not perceptive about how angry relatively trivial fees make people. We’d bet on consumer rage beating all but the cruelest merchants into submission on this one. Which is a shame, because all of the evidence suggests that the nickel fee is one of the city’s cheapest, most effective ways of reducing a small amount of landfill waste. Or, to put it another way, by killing the bag fee the mayor is going to end up spending more on the city’s own unionized waste disposal—or as he no doubt calls it, gravy.

Come to think of it, considering that it combines the mayor’s hatred of small annoyances and his love for replacing working solutions with more-expensive options, it’s a wonder the bag fee isn’t dead already.

Ending plastic bag charge may not be straightforward [National Post]
• Ford’s plan to kill plastic fee far from in the bag [Toronto Star]
Efforts to reduce plastic bag use paying off [CTV News]
• ‘Majority’ want to dump bag tax [Toronto Sun]
• Plastic shopping bags to be banned in Italy [Telegraph]