City council has voted to kill Toronto’s controversial plastic bag bylaw after considering confidential advice from its city solicitor.

The vote was 38-7.

Council also voted Wednesday in favour of a motion by Coun. Janet Davis asking the deputy city manager to report to the public works committee on June 19, 2013, on the pros and cons of reducing the use of plastic bags.

City staffers drafted the bylaw that prohibits retailers from distributing plastic shopping bags. It would have gone into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

But Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong introduced a motion eliminating the recommendation to implement the bylaw. The motion also adopted recommendations that were kept confidential and kept a confidential attachment secret as it related to litigation.

Earlier this month, the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, which opposes the planned bylaw, filed a lawsuit against the city. And the Canadian Plastics Industry Association has called on the city to overturn the ban.

There were reports that the city solicitor would advise council not to finalize the ban right away so that the city could consult with industry groups.

“This is very cryptic. This leaves a certain amount of uncertainty in the public which is regrettable,” Minnan-Wong said.

But he said adopting the recommendations allows the city solicitor to go back to the parties in the litigation.

“I’m optimistic we’ll finally clean up this mess, create clarity and move forward,” he added.

Coun. David Shiner, whose proposal for a bag ban was approved in June, said he supported Minnan-Wong’s motion, not because he thought the ban was wrong, but because council didn’t follow procedure to have the bylaw drafted before his proposal.

“The problem was there were errors in the process,” he said. “We’re going to do it in the right way. It’s the right thing for the future.

Other meeting matters

Councillors considered several other items Wednesday, including Christie’s bakery jobs and holiday shopping, among other items.

Earlier this month, Mondelez Canada announced plans to close its Mr. Christie’s bakery at 2150 Lake Shore Blvd. W. near Park Lawn Road in fall 2013 which would affect 500 bakery employees. Some councillors fear that the company will seek to rezone the area residential without this preemptive measure. After debating the matter, council voted unanimously to ask the province to consider declaring the area there as “a provincially significant employment area.” Many councillors stated that they believed there was better long term economic potential for the city if the site wasn’t rezoned.

Councillors also debated whether to allow retailers to open during Victoria Day between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Stores are required to be closed on nine statutory holidays in Ontario: New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. After council debated the issued and heard from members of the public  Coun. Mary Fragedakis moved for a receipt of the report. The motion passed 36-7.

The public works committee recommended that the city and the TTC work together to develop and implement a streetcar and cyclist safety strategy. This study, which cycling advocacy group Cycle Toronto has called for, comes after a Toronto man died in August when his bike wheel got caught in an abandoned track on Wychwood Avenue, near St. Clair Avenue West and Bathurst Street.

Council began discussing an item on Toronto water rates and fees, but ended up holding the item until Thursday.

There were a number of other councillor motions being considered including:

  • Coun. Cesar Palacio wants the city to request that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission review a uranium processing plant’s operations in the city’s west end. Davenport Village residents near 1025 Lansdowne Ave. were shocked to learn in recent weeks that GE-Hitachi processed uranium pellets at that location and have been doing so for more than 50 years.  The councillor also wants the nuclear agency to get the company to disclose its activities to Toronto Public Health and provide soil samples and air emission tests. Furthermore, Palacio wants the company to establish a five-year plan to discontinue its production of uranium pellets at the Lansdowne plant. The matter was referred to the planning and growth management committee.
  • Coun. Janet Davis wants city staff to explore with the Toronto District School Board and others the potential uses for two schools slated for closure. She wants the parties to consider such uses as child care, recreation and other community services for Victoria Park Elementary School and Parkside Elementary School.
  • Coun. Adam Vaughan wants the city to call on the federal government to commit to a $2.5 billion a year investment after the mayors of Canada’s largest cities agreed earlier this month to match such a pledge to rebuild and improve their infrastructure over 20 years.

After a lengthy debate Tuesday evening, council voted 32-8 to have the Toronto Zoo’s remaining three elephants transferred to the PAWS facility in northern California.

Council voted last fall to send the remaining elephants, Iringa, Toka and Thika, to the PAWS sanctuary in San Andreas after animal rights groups raised concerns about their welfare. But the move was delayed after concerns about infectious disease at the facility, as well as permits and flight arrangements.

On Tuesday afternoon, councillors amended and adopted the city ombudsman’s recent recommendations about how to better handle parking ticket disputes. Last Thursday, Fiona Crean said that, on balance, drivers are getting reasonable service, but there are some flaws, such as information on tickets that downplays the option for a trial.

Click here for the agenda.