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
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
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!