Local restaurants ask town to pause plastic ban bylaw

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The Town of Fort Frances council will have a second look at the single use plastic bylaw at the Planning and Development Executive Committee, after receiving a letter asking to postpone the enactment of the bylaw.

The letter, from Dale Fortes, Boston Pizza manager, said some restaurants are running into supply chain issues.

The letter was written by Fortes on behalf of himself, Sarah Noonan of the La Place Rendez‐Vous, Duane and Grace Cridland of Flint House and Larry Pham of Mekong.

Fortes wrote in the letter that because of COVID-19, restaurants across the globe turned into some form of take-out business.

“The sudden and enormous demand for packaging products placed a significant burden on suppliers,” Fortes wrote in the letter. “The ongoing issues of supply chain interruptions, coupled with labour shortages across North America, has further exacerbated the issues with availability of packaging products.”

Fort Frances councillors expressed flexibility, but also said with two years of notice, businesses were given ample time to make proper arrangements.

Coun. Mike Behan said while he is in favour of referring this item to the Planning and Development Executive Committee, he expressed concern that this is coming forward one month before the bylaw comes to effect.

“I’m a little disappointed this wasn’t raised earlier instead of the last possible moment for this to come back to our December 13 council meeting before the bylaw was scheduled to take effect on January 1,” Behan said. “But this appears to be a valid concern.”

Coun. John McTaggart said when this bylaw was proposed, nobody knew there was going to be a pandemic.

“I’m so thankful that I’m not in business anymore, and my heart goes out to these businesses,” McTaggart said. “If there’s some discretion that we could have with these businesses that might possibly put a short delay, I think it’s incumbent on us to have that discussion.”

While Fortes said he and other businesses support the bylaw, which is scheduled to take effect on Jan 1, 2022, supply chain interruptions saw an increase of 50 to 400 per cent of packaging products.

Despite their support in the collective effort to reduce single-use plastics, Fortes states in the letter, the recovery effort has been slow and riddled with challenges including the increased cost and lowered availability of standard and greener packaging options.

Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft said he spoke to three of the four named business owners about the letter. Wiedenhoeft said they all 100 per cent support the single use plastic ban bylaw.

“That being said, the pandemic has significantly impacted their business and the disruption to the supply chain of allowable packaging is real,” Wiedenhoeft said.

Coun. Douglas Judson also supported having the letter go to the committee for consideration, but said this could be an exercise of flexibility, as opposed to a bylaw amendment.

“I am concerned that with frankly over two years of runway, we’re hearing about this with one council meeting left before the bylaw comes into effect,” Judson said. “I have also conferred with other restaurants who told me from the outset they were very able to find these products.”

At the Dec. 5 meeting, the Planning and Development Executive Committee will make a recommendation for council to be given at their Dec. 13 meeting.