Harrison Hot Springs council could be the latest local government to ban single-use plastics in their community.
During council Monday (June 17), mayor Leo Facio asked staff to begin working on a report that would look at the possibility of banning single-use plastics in the village.
“There’s a lot of concern in regards to how the oceans, and some lakes I assume, are getting polluted,” Facio said. “So I think it’s a health concern and I think we should be looking at the health and well-being of everybody.”
Harrison is by no means the first community to consider banning single-use plastics like straws and plastic bags.
Plastic bags were banned in Victoria beginning in July 2018, although the ban has seen a number of legal challenges even before it was implemented. Tofino and Ucluelet have also banned both plastic bags and straws.
The desire to reduce plastic use has reached to the federal level, and earlier this month Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would ban single-use plastics like straws as early as 2021.
Coun. Samantha Piper brought up the federal plan to ban single-use plastics during the discussion on Monday.
CAO Madeline McDonald said that staff would look at how Harrison could support or supplement the proposed federal ban. Facio also said he wanted to bring in a ban sooner than 2021.
“If it happens,” he said. “There’s a federal election coming up, so who knows what’s going to happen.”
Overall, the councillors were in favour of the motion, although Coun. Ray Hooper expressed concerns about how Harrison would be able to enforce such a ban.
“We have trouble enforcing the existing bylaws we’ve got around the village,” Hooper said. “It’s not going to be fair unless we really enforce whatever bylaw we pass.”
For Coun. Gerry Palmer, however, the act of considering a ban had positive implications, even if enforcement wasn’t possible.
“The symbolism of doing it itself has a value,” Palmer said. “Even if we don’t come up with a good mechanism, it’s an important statement to make … Even if we’re not able to enforce it, I see the value.”
Council voted unanimously to have staff develop a report to look at how Harrison could ban single-use plastics, and bring it back to council. The report will also revisit the idea of installing water bottle refilling stations in the village — a project that was suggested in the latest round of resort municipality infrastructure funds, but ultimately turned down.
When the refill stations were first suggested in February of this year, some council members, including Hooper and Facio, were opposed because they felt it would take business away from local stores and wouldn’t increase tourism.
Coun. Michie Vidal spoke in support on of the refill stations on Monday night. She suggested staff look at two refill stations, rather than just one.
McDonald said staff would look at the cost of installing the refill stations, and how many would be feasible.
Council will not make a decision on whether to ban single-use plastics independently of the federal government until after the staff report comes back to council.