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There might be little Alberta could do about plastics ban, sovereignty act or not

With the next phase of the federal plastics ban about to take effect, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith now says it's an example of a situation where her new sovereignty act might be applied.

"They declared plastic straws toxic for one reason and one reason only, because they want to intervene in our area of jurisdiction and they do this again and again and again and that's why we're challenging them in court," Smith said in the legislature Monday.

A report completed ahead of the federal legislation found 29,000 tonnes of plastics entered the environment in Canada in 2016 alone.

Plastics are extremely slow to break down and some have been shown to have adverse effects on the health of humans and wildlife.

Drinking straws are one of six categories of single-use plastic that will be banned from sale or manufacture in Canada starting Dec. 20.

Smith, who owns a restaurant, said on her radio show that she gives kids four paper straws with their root beer floats.

"It's more absurd that the federal government intervened in our area of jurisdiction over managing our petrochemical industry, which the members opposite used to support, in order so they could do something as frivolous as impose a ban on plastic straws," Smith said.

But most affected businesses have already been moving toward alternatives – a decision hastened by the ban.

Royaltea is a bubble tea chain with two Calgary locations.

Bubble tea is a slushy drink that comes with chunky toppings such as tapioca pearls or lychee jelly – served with an extra wide straw to allow the toppings to be slurped up.

Straws must stand up to a long soaking, and paper straws don't cut it.

"That wet cardboard taste, so that's a No. 1 thing everyone is asking us not to carry – paper straws – but to have another alternative," said Royaltea owner Lindsay Do.

"With all the straws, all the cups, we are moving on to using a plant-based recyclable product," Do said.

Along the way, they've found an unexpected benefit.

"The cost is a little bit better for us – it's not as expensive as the plastic before," Do said.

Despite Smith's musings about wielding the sovereignty act here, political watchers say there is likely very little to be accomplished.

Ottawa controls the nation's borders and what comes and goes.

Ottawa also has enforcement power for environmental protection.

“So I think this points to the dilemma that the premier has created for herself, where she's creating, I think, some pretty high expectations about the likely outcome of the sovereignty act," said Lisa Young, a political science professor at University of Calgary.

"It's going to be very clumsy to use for some of the things that she might seek to use it for." Top Stories

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