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 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!