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May. 19, 2019 | Sunday
Local News
Councillors divided over plastic straw ban
At the council meeting on May 13, Coun. Norm Arsenault's motion to ban single-use plastics in town didn't get the unanimous support he was hoping for. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake council seemed wary this week of immediately banning single-use plastics in town and deferred the decision to its next meeting, a special session on Saturday morning.

At a marathon council meeting Monday, some councillors questioned how banning single-use plastics would work in the town.

Coun. Norm Arsenault made a motion to ban selling and using single-use plastics in town facilities, parks, town events and public spaces, and use non-plastic, compostable alternatives instead.

He also suggested that town staff speak with the public and business owners, come up with a plan for how to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics and report back to the council with a draft bylaw.

Chief administrative officer Holly Dowd said she told Arsenault the town couldn’t do that right now and instead offered to start with town facilities not purchasing plastic straws and stir sticks. 

About 57 million plastic straws are sold in Canada every day and an about 20,000 plastic straws are used in NOTL daily, Arsenault said in a presentation.

“We were elected to bring change to Niagara-on-the-Lake, change that will benefit all of our citizens,” Arsenault told councillors. “I seek unanimous support for this motion so that our children, grandchildren and all of our citizens can enjoy a cleaner and healthier future.”

Coun. Erwin Wiens questioned how the ban would be enforced and what alternatives to plastic items were available.

“I wholeheartedly support what Coun. Arsenault is doing,” said Wiens. “But it’s very premature to ban it at this point in time. I think we need to have more consultation.”

Coun. Clare Cameron said she wasn’t convinced a ban would have the intended impact and said she would support the motion if it only limits the ban to town facilities. Coun. Wendy Cheropita agreed and suggested holding off until the town sees what the province will do about the issue.

“Maybe now is not the time to ban anything but maybe to do with what is in our own control,” Cheropita said, asking how community events would work. “What about water? You would have to bring in water stations … We really need to think these things through.”

Arsenault told councillors the intent isn’t to ban anything up front but to educate the public. Plastic straws, stir sticks and plastic utensils are replaceable, he said, adding he talked to some businesses in town that were in favour of a ban.

He said he would like to see a draft bylaw in the next six months after having public consultations and working with the region and the province. Banning plastic bags and plastic bottles isn’t realistic as it would hurt their own businesses, Arsenault said, but he wants “to get the ball moving.”

Coun. Gary Burroughs said he would vote in favour of “getting it going,” but not for imposing the ban right now. Lord Mayor Betty Disero also asked Arsenault to revise his motion and exclude the word “ban” from it. 

The councillors met until 11 p.m. Monday, without completing their agenda. The meeting will resume on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

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