Harrison is inching forward with its plan to ban single-use plastics in the village, as staff are now beginning public consultation with businesses to see what kind of bylaw would work best for the community.
Staff were given direction to begin working on the bylaw Monday night (July 8) at the Harrison council meeting. The bylaw will only apply to commercial businesses, although council wasn’t exactly clear on what they wanted the rest of the bylaw to look like.
Coun. Gerry Palmer said the bylaw “doesn’t have to cover everything, but it could cover many single-use items.” He also added that he felt the bylaw could be extended to include items being brought onto the beach, although he said that would be hard to enforce.
“I don’t want to disadvantage our mechants if they can’t sell something that can be brought into the community and used on the beach,” he said.
Coun. Ray Hooper expressed his concerns about businesses having too many single-use plastic items left in their stores by the time the bylaw comes into play, particularly for restuarants who may refill things like straws. He also wanted to know if businesses would be compenstated if they had a great number of those items left in their stores by the time the bylaw came into effect. Community services coordinator Rhonda Schell said those concerns would be brought up with businesses during the consultation process. (It’s not clear how long the consultation will take, but it will likely go beyond the fall.)
The plastics bylaw comes after the federal government announced it would be implementing a single-use plastics ban across the country by 2021. Facio brought up the idea of a Harrison-specific ban at the June 17 council meeting, saying that it was a “health concern” for the community.
The federal legislation will likely target consumer-based single-use plastics like bags, straws and cutlerly, as well as focusing on plastic manufacturers, and is set to come into effect for 2021.
Coun. Michie Vidal asked if Harrison would be considering alternatives for its garbage and recycling bags, but Schell said that would likely be included under the federal legislation.
A proposal for two new water bottle refill stations, also spearheaded during the June 17 council meeting, was also on the table Monday.
The $18,000 project would see two refill stations installed in the village. One would replace the water fountain on the beach washroom building and would include a water fountain and refill station, while the other would be installed in Rendall Park and include a freestanding refill station, water fountain and pet fountain.
The project cost would include the purchase of the stations as well as the install, and is proposed to be paid for out of general taxation.
Hooper asked if it was possible to have this project paid for through the resort municipality infrastructure (RMI) funds, which the province gives Harrison every three years to pay for tourism infrastructure. Hooper was advised that Harrison had already sent in its list of projects for the RMI funding, and therefore couldn’t add the refill stations to the list.
Water bottle refill stations were initially considered as one of the projects that could be paid for by RMI funds, but was ultimately voted down by council as many felt it would take customers away from local businesses.
Coun. Samantha Piper, who was on the committee that originally suggested water bottle refill stations be included in the RMI projects, had to control her frustration at Monday’s meeting.
“I’m going to be as polite as I can, because I’m a little frustrated,” she said. “I don’t know if there was enough appreciation for the work that was in that (resort development strategy) document.”
“I’m a little frustrated that we have to look at tax dollars to now pay for this, because we missed an opportunity.”
She added that the installation “comes in line with that single-use plastic movement.”
Palmer had voted against the water bottle refill stations before, and said that he was wary of approving them now.
“If we voted against it before, if that was a reasonably good, logical decision, then the only reason we’re changing is because we’re talking about the single-use plastics policy,” he said. “But we’re a ways from that … so it seems to me, early to be looking at spending $18,000.”
Ultimately, council decided to defer the report to the first financial planning meeting, where they would then decide whether to fund the $18,000 refill stations from tax dollars for the 2020 fiscal year.