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
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