FREDERICTON – Many muncipalities around the province have been considering or enacting bans on single-use plastics bags, but they’ve now taken the debate to a provincial level. The Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick (UMNB), which represents 60 cities, town and villages, is asking the provincial government to enact a province-wide ban rather than tackle the issue community by community.
Alex Scholten, the deputy mayor of New Maryland and member of the UMNB executive committee, says a provincial law will make it easier for businesses to adjust to a new practice that is better for the environment.
“We want to try and be business-friendly,” said Scholten in an interview. “If there are differing laws amongst municipalities in the province, it creates a situation where businesses have more difficulty adjusting to a ban. If it’s only in certain communities and other communities allow it, if it’s a business that spans a number of communities, it makes it more difficult for them.
“Having an association of 60 associations, in our case, coming out and asking the province to do something province-wide, it’s a more uniform approach to the issue.”
The UMNB voted on a resolution, which was originally moved by the Town of Quispamsis, at the organization’s AGM in Fredericton last weekend.
Some municipalities in the province are at various stages of dealing with this issue. Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe have adopted a ban that will take effect in July, 2020.
Saint John city councillor David Hickey has pushed for a ban in Saint John.
John Wishart, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Moncton, agrees that a province-wide ban is the best approach.
“We would probably prefer a province-wide ban as opposed to individual municipalities deciding how to do this because then it creates a bit of a mix of policies and regulations,” he said in an interview with Huddle in April. “So you might have a store in a community that’s allowed to use plastic bags and a neighbouring community where it’s not.”
Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, says it’s an issue that urgently needs to be addressed and she applauded the UMNB for asking the goverment to bring in a ban.
“It is a sight New Brunswickers are sick of seeing: Walmart bags snagged on trees, Tim Hortons cups cluttering our streets and parks, and who could forget the ‘Pepsi Lobster’ caught in our beautiful Bay of Fundy,” said Corbett in a release. “Good on the municipalities of New Brunswick for standing up together for action. We have hit a tipping point on the plastics issue. The jury is out: the alternatives are here, and the cost of doing nothing is just too great.”
Scholten says the association has spoken with the environment and local government minister, Jeff Carr, about this issue. He hasn’t given a definitive answer about what the province plans to do, but they will be talking about it further after the weekend vote.
Like Corbett, Scholten says it’s an idea whose time has come.
“P.E.I. has already banned these bags,” he said. “Other provinces are looking at doing the same. It’s something the provincial government is very serious about looking at more closely.”