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Sask. intervenes in court challenge of fed plastics ban

Daily Leg Update: Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre calls federal plastics ban an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre speaks to reporters March 7 about the province’s involvement in a court action against the federal single plastics ban.

REGINA - The Saskatchewan government is among those challenging the federal single-use plastics ban in court this week.

The province filed as an intervenor in the court case being heard in federal court in Toronto. The indication is the Sask. government made their submission virtually on Tuesday morning. 

The court action is being taken by a group of plastics companies opposed to Ottawa’s move to ban single use plastic items such as bags, straws, cutlery, containers and stir sticks. 

Both Saskatchewan and Alberta have opposed the Canadian government’s move to label single use plastics as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. So far, they are the only two provinces intervening in the case.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre told reporters Tuesday the reason Saskatchewan decided to file the intervention was over a division of powers issue.

“It’s been long established that the federal government doesn’t have the right to infringe on specific regulations of the provinces,” said Eyre. “As I say, that’s pretty established. And we thought it was an important opportunity to once again assert the fact that this is an overreach by the federal government, and there are a lot of other issues involved here as well, including cost of the economy, small businesses, and just the whole issue of environmental regulation, and who controls what, and avoiding unnecessary duplication.”

In this situation, the provincial regulations were environmental regulations in waste management, which is managed by the province. Eyre said a waste management issue is not one the federal government can weigh in on constitutionally.

Beyond that, “aside from the constitutional issue, a federal overreach, we simply don’t believe that plastic is on a par with arsenic, mercury, and other known toxic substances,” said Eyre.

She also said the overreach by the Feds would hurt the retail sector, hospitality sector and consumers.

“We’ve gone into small businesses and have been told about the cost of phasing out plastics. A standard plastic bag cost I believe four cents, a paper bag 15 cents, and we know that restaurants for example, have to take into account every slice of every tomato. It’s very similar with bags. These things add up… when it comes to what people are expecting, I don’t think they love waste, I don’t think they love duplication, I don’t think they love excessive overreach.”

Opposition Justice critic Nicole Sarauer was dismissive of the Saskatchewan government’s court intervention.

“This is just another example of an out of touch government,” said Sarauer. 

She added that if the government wanted to help small businesses there was a lot they could be doing, suggesting they could cut the SaskPower rate increases, put a cap on delivery fees and freeze the gas tax.

“These are things that could be much more helpful to businesses than intervening in a court case that could take years to work its way through the process.”