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
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!