Populist Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says the city's taxpayers are to blame for a council vote to ban plastic bags next year.
“It’s the people’s fault. Honestly, sometimes I get so frustrated because the people are just sitting back listening. They don’t pick up the phone, they don’t go down to city hall, they don’t ask questions, they just ... it’s frustrating," Ford said in a Thursday morning interview with AM 640 host John Oakley.
"I want people to get engaged in municipal politics, and find out who their councillor is and know how they vote.”
The mayor's comments come after his move on Wednesday to get rid of a five-cent plastic bag fee that the city has compelled retailers to charge customers. While Ford succeeded in getting that fee scrapped starting in July, his plan backfired after council voted 24-20 in favour of a separate surprise motion to ban bags outright starting in 2013.
The motion, moved by Coun. David Shiner, a member of Ford's own executive committee, says retail stores can't provide customers with "single-use plastic carry-out [shopping] bags, including those advertised as compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or similar effective Jan. 1, 2013."
Ford called the bag ban "ludicrous," and said he believes the city will be hit with legal challenges over the ban.
The vote would have negative political consequences for councillors who supported the ban, Ford said.
"The campaign's already started for the next election, Johnny. You know, we have to get rid of some of these councillors." The municipal election is more than two years away.
He also urged citizens to make their voices heard at city hall.
"If there was a couple hundred thousand people down at Nathan Phillips Square saying they want plastic bags back, yes, then the councillors will listen,” said Ford, who has positioned himself as a champion of small government and low taxes.
"It’s up to the taxpayers. They have to be more engaged and they’re just not. It’s frustrating when stuff like this happens.”
Sharp words for allies
The motion to ban the plastic bags caught many city hall observers by surprise because it came from Shiner, a member of Ford's inner circle.
Shiner said in an interview with CBC's Metro Morning on Thursday that the idea of the outright ban came to him in the midst of the debate over the five-cent fee.
The north Toronto councillor said he supported the mayor's idea of getting rid of what he called the "nickel tax."
"But the bigger issue is what's happening with 250 million bags that still end up in our landfill every year. Because people think, 'Oh, I take it, I reuse it, and something will happen to it.' But that plastic never breaks down and it stays plastic forever."
Ford had sharp words for Shiner and two other members of his executive committee who voted for the ban, Coun. Michelle Berardinetti and Coun. Jaye Robinson.
"Berardinetti and Shiner, I feel sorry for them at election time," he said.
Shiner, Berardinetti and Robinson are "people who are supposed to be in the middle of the road — obviously they're very far left," Ford said.