Mayor Rob Ford aims to scrap Toronto's 5-cent bag fee

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will try to scrap the five-cent plastic bag fee today, despite city staff's recommendations to direct a portion of proceeds from the fee to tree canopy protection.

In a motion to be voted on by the mayor's executive committee, staff are recommending that major retailers be asked to voluntarily donate the revenue that they get from the fee to protect the city's canopy from an infestation of the emerald ash borer bug, which has caused a lot of damage to city trees.

That proposal has been championed by Coun. Michelle Berardinetti, a member of the executive committee.

But the mayor is expected to introduce a competing motion today to scrap the fee altogether. He said on his Sunday talk show that the levy has "been around too long" and has served its purpose.

If his proposal is accepted by the executive committee, it would then have to pass a later vote in council in order for it take effect.

If, however, the city succeeds in attracting 10 per cent of all bag tax revenues from retailers, it stands to collect about $270,000 annually. That figure is based on the assumption that major retailers — defined by the city as department, big box and grocery stores — account for about half of all plastic bag sales.

Smaller retailers will not be targeted in the campaign.

The five-cent bag fee was first introduced in the summer of 2009 by then Mayor David Miller. The city doesn't make any money from the fee — the retailers get to keep all the proceeds.

The aim of the fee was to reduce plastic bag consumption, and city staff estimate that usage has dropped to 215 million bags annually from 457 million in 2008.

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