Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on plastic bag ban: 'It's not a smart move'

Toronto city council voted to ban plastic bags on Wednesday night, making it the first major Canadian city to do so. The surprise vote came after Mayor Rob Ford asked council to scrap a 5-cent bag fee retailers were mandated to charge customers for handing out plastic bags. The fee was killed, but council then passed a motion from one of Ford’s own conservative allies in council, Councillor David Shiner, to outright ban plastic bags in Canada’s largest city as of Jan. 1, 2013.

San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles in the United States, as well as other cities around the world, and even entire countries, such as Italy, have banned plastic bags previously, but Toronto is the first major city Canadian city to impose such a ban. The vote represents yet another major defeat for the mayor of Toronto, where city council has repeatedly voted against him on other high-profile matters such as transit planning. Ford called the vote “ludicrous” and predicted the city would face legal challenges following the decision.

From the Toronto Star:

Ford appeared upset after the vote, blinking rapidly, though he told reporters he had succeeded in doing “what people wanted” by getting the fee bylaw scrapped. When it was pointed out that he had also inadvertently gotten plastic bags banned, he said council’s decision “doesn’t make any sense.”

“I think we’re gonna get sued. I don’t see how we’re gonna win that. It’s gonna be very difficult. It’s not a smart move by council to ban plastic bags. I don’t think it’s gonna hold up,” Ford said.

At least one expert, however, predicts it won’t be an easy battle for either upset consumers or retailers to fight the ban in court. Quoted in the Globe and Mail, lawyer John Mascarin, of Aird and Berlis,  said the city would have a strong case to defend from possible challenges.

From the archives of Maclean’s, a story on individuals and organizations tasked with defending the plastic bag.