BANFF – A financial incentive to help businesses transition away from single-use items has been thrown away.
A Town of Banff administrative recommendation to allocate $50,000 to help and reward businesses that buy-in earlier to the municipality’s new single-use reduction bylaw – aimed at reducing disposable items that are used once and then immediately go to landfill – was voted down by council.
Carla Bitz, environment and sustainability coordinator for the Town of Banff, said feedback during consultations on the bylaw indicated strong support for actions that would reward and provide incentives for re-use, rather than implementing fees and penalties.
“When the bylaw was in front of council, one of the main barriers with respect to timing on this was planning for budget cycles,” said Bitz.
“One of the goals of bringing something in like this would be to fill that gap for businesses to potentially take action this year if it wasn’t in their planned budget.”
The bylaw, passed in February, bans shopping bags and requires reusables items at on-site dining places like coffee shops and fast-food restaurants. Enforcement was pushed back until January 2024 based on business feedback.
At that same meeting, council also asked administration to return to a future meeting with a proposed rebate program that could provide support and provide businesses with incentives to comply with bylaw requirements prior to the enforcement deadline.
Under administration’s proposal, eligible expenses would have included the purchase and installation of commercial dishwashers or sinks, the purchase of reusable dishes and cutlery, bulk condiment dispensers, and costs associated with participation in a reuse program for takeaway food ware.
Administration suggested the rebate be limited to the lesser of $2,000 or 50 per cent for expenses incurred on or before June 30, 2023; or the lesser of $1,000 or 50 per cent for expenses incurred between July 1 and October 31, 2023.
However, Couns. Barb Pelham, Kaylee Ram and Ted Christensen voted down the idea, while Chip Olver, Grant Canning and Hugh Pettigrew were in favour. Mayor Corrie DiManno was absent from the meeting. A tied 3-3 vote means the motion failed.
Pelham said she liked the rebate idea, but also had concerns about the declining environmental reserve fund from which the $50,000 was coming.
“I give pause due to the fact that we haven’t had specific businesses telling us that they really need it,” she said.
“We’ve postponed the commencement date for the bylaw, which does assist with their process of budgeting for their purchases for the year. I believe we have given an accommodation on that front.”
Chris Hughes, the director of corporate services for the Town of Banff, said the forecasted balance for the environmental reserve, which is primarily funded through Fortis franchise fees, is $406,000 by year’s end, declining to $163,000 by the end of 2025.
“We’ve currently dedicated more funds to be spent from it over the next number of years than are scheduled to go in,” he said.
“We will bring back some options for council to bolster the funding going into this reserve so that we aren’t in this position with a declining balance.”
Pettigrew said he was willing to support the $50,000 spend, but raised concerns about potentially increasing rates for residents associated with the Fortis franchise fees.
“It’s hard enough for them to make the bill,” he said.
“I am very cautious about moving to another step later on, just as a head’s up.”
Olver was quick to call a point of order on Pettigrew.
“Can we please limit today’s discussion to the item on the table rather than anticipate future discussions?” she said.
In growing tensions between some members of council, Pettigrew tried to interject but was quickly shut down by Pelham, who was the acting mayor in DiManno’s absence.
“Thank you, thank you. I am the chair and I respond to Coun. Olver,” she told Pettigrew.
“Thank you, Coun. Olver, I think that is an inappropriate comment.”