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  • Writer's pictureRobyn Urback

Doug Ford may not be able to get you a family doctor. But he can bring back paper bags



Mr. Ford is great at the small stuff. It’s just such a nuisance he’s tasked with running an entire province, too.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s latest retail political gesture is just about the Doug-Fordiest leadership move conceivable. It has all the elements that are quintessentially him: booze, consumer politics, populist appeal, and a sprinkle of triviality. It also happens to be a good idea, which is why Mr. Ford will coast happily on his fumes, even if it’s emblematic of the more cartoonish elements of his premiership.

Last weekend, Mr. Ford wrote a letter to Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) president and CEO George Soleas, asking that he reinstate the use of paper bags at the Crown corporation’s stores. The LCBO stopped offering paper bags with purchases this past September, a move it said would save the “equivalent of 188,000 trees each year” and “create a more sustainable Ontario.” It phased out plastic bags 15 years ago.

Citing the cost of reusable bags, Mr. Ford wrote that, “at a time when Ontario families are already struggling to make ends meet, every additional expense counts.” (Please, Mr. Soleas, my children – they are so hungry. They need their vodka.) He also noted that “this change has left people stuck openly carrying alcohol in public” (which they would do if they forgot to bring a reusable bag to a grocery store that sells alcohol anyway). In response to Mr. Ford’s letter, the LCBO has signalled it will resume offering free paper bags, with more details available in the coming weeks.

The change is a win for Mr. Ford and a win for common sense, which has been perilously hard to come by when it comes to policy-making on plastics and other packaging. Ottawa’s ban on what it calls “single-use plastics,” which was waylaid by a Federal Court ruling in November, never made much sense considering that studies have shown that the majority of consumers were, for example, reusing plastic grocery bags to line their garbage bins. Paradoxically, the ban has forced consumers to buy plastic bags that are truly single-use, in lieu of the dual-use free bags they used to get from grocery stores (while simultaneously accumulating an obscene number of reusable tote bags).


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