Toronto mayor Rob Ford tries to drop 5-cent plastic bag fee, city council bans bags instead

Mayor Rob Ford is calling yesterday's hasty and almost out-of-nowhere decision to ban plastic bags in the city of Toronto "ludicrous."

All he wanted was to drop the 5-cent free. Instead, city council dropped the bags altogether.

"Usually with a big decision like this, councillors ask city staff to issue a report on the pros and cons, then debate it in committee before bringing it to a council meeting for a decision. This time it came out of the blue, without any discussion in the media or among the public," writes the Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee.

As of January 1st, 2013, retailers will not be allowed to give out plastic bags — including ones advertised as biodegradable — for free or for a fee.

Gee writes that the argument to ditch the bags doesn't sound completely thought out. Bag use is already down by half thanks to the fee, plastic bags are recyclable, and they take less energy to produce than paper bags do.

"If there are good, solid, factual arguments why there is no better option than banning plastic bags, fair enough. Let's hear them. Instead we got a rushed decision on a feel-good measure," he writes.

Toronto will be joining other bag-free cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland. South Australia implemented an "outright ban of single-use plastic bags in January 2009."

Another Toronto ban, based on "virtually no evidence," is currently being challenged. Since the city banned pit bulls seven years ago, the number of dog-bite incidents have not dropped. Instead of tackling pet behaviour, the ban simply did away with a breed.

Banning seems to be the latest strategy in attempting to force change in North American cities. Currently, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to fight obesity rates by banning super-sized sugary drinks from his city.

In Fort Lee, New Jersey, police have banned texting while walking.

Even harmless tunes are being banned in some cities. In Salem, Oregon, outdoor saxophone playing was almost banned this spring. And in Kelowna, B.C., ice-cream trucks have been banned from playing their "come get ice cream" jingles.

What do you think? Is banning something an effective way to bring about change? Or is it just a knee-jerk solution and oversimplification of a more complicated problem?