Opposition and environment minister bicker over bag ban in House of Assembly

The debate around further public consultations in the provincial government’s consideration of a ban on single-use plastic bags continued in the House of Assembly on Thursday.

Environment Minister Graham Letto was challenged by the opposition, but said he has “no apologies” about holding additional consultations before making a decision.

PC MHA Barry Petten raised Letto’s claims on Wednesday that Prince Edward Island tried to implement a ban too quickly and the province is “having issues” with businesses and the public as a result.

P.E.I. Environment Minister Richard Brown shot down those claims in an interview with CBC News later that day, and said the province has “not one bit of regret.”

Plastic bags will be a thing of the past on Prince Edward Island as of this July, and Minister Richard Brown says response to that decision has been overwhelmingly positive. (CBC)

Brown even made a direct appeal to his counterpart in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Ban single-use plastic bags. You will have your population on side. And the business community will follow you.”

Tory MHA Barry Petten asked Letto if he was looking for a reason not to go ahead with a plastic bag ban. (CBC)

Petten said Letto’s claims were contradictory and asked “how he could explain” Brown’s response.

“I have no intentions of getting into an argument with the environment minister in P.E.I. They made their decision to bring in a plan without consultation,” said Letto.

“When the bill was entered into the House, it came in with no consultations and it ended up making amendments in third reading … when and if this bill comes to the House, there’ll be no need for amendments.”

Letto then put the onus on Municipalities NL.

“Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, and the municipalities of this province, have the authority today to implement a ban if they so wish,” he said.

“We are looking at implementing a province-wide ban, and we’ll do just that, but we won’t do it without making sure we have the input from all our citizens, all our businesses.”

MNL members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bag ban at a meeting in 2017.

Although some municipalities have put their own bans in place, MNL President Tony Keats said earlier this month that only the provincial government has the power to enact a full ban.

The province’s environment department is still debating a ban on single-use plastic bags — years after the province’s municipalities passed a resolution to get rid of the bags. (John Robertson/CBC)

Petten again challenged the environment minister, and accused him of looking for a way out of introducing a provincial ban.

“What exactly is the minister looking for in this new round of consultations? Is he looking for a reason not to proceed with this ban?” said Petten.

“Is that the real reason we’re doing more consultations, minister, are you looking for some backstop for this to say no?”

Letto responded that the province has never said no to a ban, they just want three more weeks of consultations. But he told reporters those three weeks should be enough.

“I think we’re going to be in a position [that] the information that we have, and the information that I get back through this three weeks of consultations, will be enough for us to make a decision,” Letto said.

‘No need for more consultation’

PC Leader Ches Crosbie says most people are in favour of banning plastic bags. (Katie Breen/CBC)

After question period, PC Leader Ches Crosbie said that there’s been enough talk. Crosbie said his party has been in favour of a ban since June and municipalities and businesses are already on board.

“I think we’ve done plenty of consultation,” he said.

“It’s been in the air for a long, long time. There’s no need for more consultation, what there’s a need for is leadership and action.”

Crosbie said he’s done his own consulting, and the public is in favour of a ban too. 

“The government is slow to move on these things, and it’s hard to explain. The opinion polls show that in Atlantic Canada over 80 per cent of the population wants this,” he said.

“Everyone knows it’s coming, so why further delay?”

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Opposition and environment minister bicker over bag ban in House of Assembly

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/bag-ban-banter-continues-1.5056702?cmp=rss
Aggregated from: CBC | Newfoundland and Labrador News

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