The Dryden Observer

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Failed bag ban a blow to progress

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

While it’s certainly easier to comment on something like this while looking in from the outside, I find Sioux Lookout council’s decision to rescind their ban on single-use plastic shopping bags a little demoralizing.

After just a few months, council voted 5-1 to end the ban after receiving a 400-signature petition and complaints from business people, says, who eagerly picked up the original story in the Chronicle-Journal, remarking with incredulity that it didn’t even require a lawsuit to make the community change its mind.

Four hundred names? Jeff Cole gathered close to 1,500 names in his attempt to preserve the name of Riverview School — he didn’t even get a phone call from his locally-elected trustee.

It might be said that never before has such an effort been made in the interest of not making an effort.

Though I shouldn’t run my mouth too much, being perhaps one of the city’s worst offenders when it comes to forgetting my reusable shopping bags.

However, my spirit remains willing to hold steadfast in its efforts to modify deeply-entrenched behaviour because I know, without a doubt, it is simply the proper thing to do. Single-use plastic bags are rotten, nasty things that need to go away.


Still, there are obviously those who feel otherwise, with whom I struggle to relate.

It’s a bit like my parents, who quit recycling 10 years ago because some cynic told them that the personnel at the rural landfill they frequent are, ‘probably just throwing the recyclables in with the regular trash anyway’.

While no reasonable attempt has ever been made on my parents’ behalf to substantiate such a claim, for them this aging off-handed comment constitutes an easy, guilt-free exit from any moral responsibility around sorting their garbage. It’s just easier to transfer culpability to the system than to change.

The awkward problem I’ll face in arguing the point with Mom and Dad at our next family dinner is that the systems really don’t inspire much trust or confidence in me either.

The economic concept of supply and demand is nice to think about in the same fanciful way that I tell my daughter stories about Santa Claus. When Ontario’s hydro users dramatically reduced electricity use through conservation, Hydro One just raised rates to protect profits — despite the fact that electricity use accounts for an arguably meaningless portion of a user’s bill.

Gasoline prices in Dryden have been fixed at $127.9/litre for several consecutive months, despite wide-ranging fluctuations in the price of oil and significantly lower out-of-town prices.

In the five years I’ve owned my home, I’ve seen my town waterworks bill go from $72 to $98, while a water meter lies in wait under my basement stairs, recording very little of anything. An issue I raise at my own peril, I know.

There isn’t much of an argument for playing by the rules in an age where the rules are so easily changed.

And that lack of vision and integrity in public systems, in the fundamental concepts that underlie our society, is more rotten and dangerous than any single-use plastic bag.

This month’s provincial election featured the lowest recorded voter turnout in history. While voters themselves tend to get the blame for this, few tend to ask about why voters are disengaging in droves. Maybe it’s this crushing sense that ‘they’ (y’know…them) are just going to do what they’re gonna do anyways.

Who cares, right?

I saw Sioux Lookout’s plastic bag ban as a little island of hope and vision in a sea of futility. One that has unfortunately, now sunk beneath the waves.

Chris Marchand


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