Paper bags could soon return to the LCBO following a request from Ontario’s premier.

In a letter to the CEO of the Crown corporation, Doug Ford says he wants “immediate steps” taken to reverse the reusable bag policy.

“At a time when many Ontario families are already struggling to make ends meet, every additional expense counts,” the premier wrote in a letter dated April 7.

“That includes charging customers for reusable bags instead of the free paper bags that the LCBO previously offered. This change has left people stuck openly carrying alcohol in public when leaving a LCBO store.”

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) announced it would be phasing out free paper bags in April 2023, noting it would divert about 2,665 tonnes of waste from landfills.

They said this would be the equivalent of saving more than 188,000 trees every year.

The policy went into effect seven months ago in September.

In his letter, Ford said that people expect Crown corporations to “refrain from imposing additional and unnecessary burdens on them.”

He also said that the environmental merits are “questionable at best,” considering they are recyclable.

“As a government, we are focused on making life easier, more convenient, and more affordable for the people of Ontario. The decision to remove paper bags has had the opposite effect.”

LCBO customers can still use the retail store’s eight-pack carriers or used cardboard boxes for free.

A six-bottle bag and large reusable bags cost about $2.95 while a two-bottle reusable bag is available for $1.25. The LCBO said the bags are made from recycled water bottles.

A four-pocket organic cotton bag is available for about $15.

A spokesperson for the LCBO said it received “direction from the provincial government to take steps to reintroduce single-use paper bags at LCBO retail locations.”

“While we are not able to confirm an availability date at this time, we will share more details with our valued customers in the coming weeks,” they said.

Paper bag policy ‘a massive distraction’

Ontario opposition parties said they were surprised to hear the premier spend energy and time on this policy reversal, saying there are other ways to save people money.

“I question the government’s priorities on this one,” NDP Leader Marit Stiles told reporters Monday.

Liberal Parliamentary Leader John Fraser said he isn’t going to speak negatively about the policy choice, but that “it’s just not the most important thing facing Ontarians right now.”

“Do Ontarians want paper bags at the LCBO? I think more Ontarians want to have a family doctor. I think more Ontarians want to have rent control so they can pay their rent.”

“That’s the stuff people should be focused on.”

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner called the policy “a massive distraction from the premier’s failure to address the housing affordability crisis.”

“If people really want to save money, bring a reusable bag to the LCBO,” he said. “You can save money for yourself, the LCBO and also save trees.”

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy told reporters the change was on-brand with the government’s commitment to giving people choice and convenience.

“They can choose to use reusable bags,” he said.

When asked why the government is adopting this policy a year after the LCBO started to phase our single-use bags, Bethlenfalvy said it was the result of feedback.

“We're constantly trying new things. And then we got the feedback. We heard from many people that this was something they wanted, to continue to have the option of paper bag. So that's what we're doing.”