Montreal passes bylaw ending universal distribution of grocery flyers


Opposition councillors insist city must submit progress report by September 2024

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Montreal city council passed a bylaw Tuesday allowing it to limit the distribution of advertising flyers to households that request them as of May 2023.

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“We’re on the right side of history,” Mayor Valérie Plante said, noting that 800,000 flyers end up in the city’s recycling centres each week.

“That’s 40 million per year!” she said. “We can’t support a model of distribution that’s based on waste. It’s irresponsible.”

Montreal has set a goal of becoming zero waste by 2030.

Interim opposition leader Aref Salem expressed support for the measure.

“Of course, in 2022, we cannot continue to accept 40 million plastic bags being sent to the recycling centre,” he said.

However, he raised concerns about the future of free local weekly newspapers that are also delivered in the Publisac bag.

Salem also expressed worries about how the ban on universal door-to-door distribution would affect low-income residents who depend on the flyers to shop for food, especially in today’s inflationary context.

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The Ensemble Montréal opposition forced an amendment shortening the delegation of power to the city to enforce the measure from a proposed five years to two-and-a-half years. It also requires the city to report to council on the bylaw’s impact by September 2024.

Plante promised measures to help local weeklies survive the loss of their current method of delivery.

Currently, flyers are distributed under an opt-out system, where residents who don’t want them can put up a sign in their doorway refusing them.

However, critics say unwanted advertising matter is often distributed even to homes with “no flyers” stickers.

The new system will be an opt-in one, where people who want flyers will have to request them. The advertising matter will also no longer be allowed to be delivered in a plastic bag.

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TC Transcontinental, which publishes and distributes the Publisac, said two weeks ago it’s unfortunate that consumers could lose access to flyers that help them economize just when inflation is causing “unprecedented price increases,” and vowed “to assert our rights and those of our customers, if necessary.”

The company has said the opt-in model is not viable for door-to-door distribution.

On Monday, it announced it would stop distributing the Publisac to households in Mirabel, after the Quebec Superior Court rejected a motion by the company seeking to overturn a 2019 bylaw imposing an opt-in system in the city 50 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

TC Transcontinental said it would turn to Canada Post to deliver flyers to customers who request them, resulting in the elimination of 16 jobs.

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In other council news:

— The project to build platform screen doors on several stations on the Orange Line is only on hold, not cancelled, Plante said, after Salem questioned her on a report in the Montreal Gazette revealing that the $200-million project was quietly shelved in December.

“Let’s just say that we put it on ice for a while,” she said.

Plante said her administration chose to maintain transit service for essential-service workers during the pandemic, despite a sharp drop in ridership. While the barrier doors are important, the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) has had to implement budget cuts to make up for the loss in revenues, she said.

— Montreal will hold a pilot project allowing people to bring dogs on a leash on the métro, under an opposition motion adopted unanimously. Currently, dogs are only allowed on the transit network in a cage or pet carrier, unless they are guide dogs, which are permitted. In December, the SPCA raised a 16,546-name petition to allow leashed dogs on the STM.

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The motion calls for the pilot project to be implemented by the end of the year. It also calls on the city and STM to launch a public awareness campaign on the topic.

— Councillors also approved an opposition motion to request that the Quebec government amend the city’s charter so that two independent civilian members with expertise on racial profiling and human rights may be added to the nine-member public security committee. The committee is now made up of city and borough councillors and two suburban mayors.

The proposal was among 38 recommendations made in June 2020 by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), which held hearings on systemic racism and discrimination within the city and its police force.

— Council also unanimously passed a motion introduced by Snowdon councillor Sonny Moroz to designate May as Jewish Heritage Month in Montreal.

On Monday, councillors approved a declaration naming recognizing April 27 and 28 as Yom HaShoah day, commemorating victims of the Holocaust.

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