December 10, 2011
Call it the 5 cent solution.
Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, a member of the budget committee, wants to urge businesses bagging cash from the city’s 5-cent plastic bag fee to pony up to help save a rash of programs on the chopping block in the 2012 budget.
“It’s a local tax and it should be directed into local programs,” Berardinetti told the Sun Friday. “I’ll be getting on my bully pulpit to urge these businesses to direct the (bag fee) revenue towards these programs.”
The bag fee – which many including Berardinetti describe as a “tax” – demands all retailers in the city charge customers a nickel for a plastic bag.
Retailers don’t have to pay the money to the city or account for how much cash it brings in. The city does encourage retailers to reinvest the revenue into environmental initiatives.
Since the fee was slapped on the city, many large stores have donated a portion of the proceeds from the fee to environmental charities.
But faced with cuts to a laundry list of city programs proposed in the 2012 budget, Berardinetti said she thinks the retailers should start donating the money directly to city causes including student nutrition programs, capital repairs for outdoor pools and wading pools and operating funding for recreational centres poised to lose their programming.
Eliminating recreation programming at some sites the city shares with the Toronto District School Board will save the city $2.1 million. The nutrition programs that could be axed cost the city around $392,000. The two outdoor pools slated for closure need around $500,000 in capital repairs in the near future while the five wading pools slated to be closed need around $600,000 in repairs.
“I think we could get a large number of councillors on side with this issue if we could get (the retailers) to direct (the fee) towards programs,” Berardinetti said.
Berardinetti said the bag fee makes more sense if council can urge businesses to inject the money collected back into the local community.
“It is disconcerting to me to not know where it is going and it is disconcerting to many Torontonians and my residents when they don’t see it coming back into the community,” she said.
On Sunday Berardinetti plans to speak about her plan on Councillor Josh Matlow’s afternoon radio show on NewsTalk 1010.
She may find a sympathetic ear with Matlow.
The rookie councillor said Friday he believes the bag fee revenue should be put towards something tangible.
“We should find a way for the (bag fee) revenue big retailers bring in to go to supporting a city operating budget that already has a dearth of funds,” Matlow said.
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