Canada's National Post newspaper today has a story analyzing whether Toronto's new 5-cent tax on plastic grocery bags is legal. According to the story, Toronto's City Council won the legal authority to do things like tax grocery bags as part of a 2006 law passed by the province of Ontario, which permits the city to enact any bylaw as long as it is related to the "economic, social and environmental well-being" of the municipality. But the story notes that with the bag law, Toronto became "the first municipality in Canada to pass a law that dictates part of the business relationship between two other parties." So, if the plastics industry decides to challenge the law in court, would it stick? The answer isn't clear. The story notes that courts have given cities leeway in passing laws for the general public good. But it also cited a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2001 that permitted a town in Quebec to ban pesticides, but said there are limits to municipalities' powers. It will be interesting to see if Canada's plastics industry -- or some of its bag suppliers -- decide to test the law. A suit could discourage other communities from passing similar laws. But a losing case could open the floodgates.
Can Toronto's bag tax stand up in court?
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