|Red sand, no cans
National Post - March 5, 2002
Anne of Green Gables never drank pop out of a can. And, according to the Prince Edward Island government, neither should anyone else on the island. Last month Chester Gillan, P.E.I.'s environment minister, announced he was maintaining his province's 18-year-old ban on pop and beer cans. Carbonated beverages can only be sold in refillable glass bottles in the province.
But that doesn't square with residents' views. Letters to the editor and editorials in P.E.I. have been solidly against the ban since Mr. Gillan made his announcement. A recent survey said three in four Islanders would buy soft drinks in cans or plastic bottles, if given the choice. And Terri Johnson of Milo, P.E.I., recently unveiled a Web site and petition as a focal point for popular opposition to the ban.
Mr. Gillan's weak argument is that Islanders must accept less choice in order to save the environment and promote tourism. But if the government is so concerned on this score, why is it only carbonated drinks such as pop and beer that are subject to the bottle requirement? Juice, milk, water and other unbubbly beverages can be sold however a consumer desires -- environment be damned. If Mr. Gillan is driven to keep cans out of ditches and off beaches, then why not ban all cans?
One reason stands out. Whenever the topic of the ban comes up, the management of Seaman's Beverages, the only bottler of soft drinks on the island, raise the spectre of 125 jobs that might be lost if "imported" pop were to flood P.E.I.'s shores. Indeed, the official explanation for the original 1984 ban reads: "Preserving a local bottling business and the associated jobs was also seen as paramount."
Setting aside the outrageous infringement on P.E.I. residents' right to choose how they quench their thirst and the higher prices they must pay, (as well as the indirect effects of the ban, which include the blocking of carbonated juice beverages that are distributed only in cans), even the alleged economic benefits of propping up a local business is illusory. A 1998 study by University of Prince Edward Island researchers found that provincial businesses lost $4-million in sales and the government $400,000 in taxes per year because of the can ban. The law hurts consumers, business and government. Free the cans!