Open Letter

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October 3, 2019

Let’s not kill the Publisac

Both those for and those against the Publisac agree on the need to reduce waste at source and to respect the choice of those who do not want to receive flyers. Interestingly, we can reach these goals with the current system in place. When citizens exercise their right to opt out, the volumes of flyers to be printed and bags to be produced fall accordingly. It makes neither economic nor environmental sense for advertisers, publishers and retailers to produce something that no one wants.

Today, on October 3, in response to the petition launched by the Montreal-based Antipublisac movement, the City of Montreal will hold a briefing ahead its the public consultation on regulating flyers. The movement would like to see flyers distributed only to people who agree to receive them and display a logo saying so, in other words those in favour of the Publisac are being asked to opt in. According to the WSP study ordered by the City of Montreal, the opt-in option does not currently exist anywhere, the usual method being the opt-out option.

Opting out is easy; it can be done by sending a request to the customer service of Publisac, which in turn sends a red pictogram to be displayed. Introducing the opt-in option to Montreal would mean the end of Publisac in Quebec since TC Transcontinental, owner of Publisac, has stated that this is not viable given the complexity and the prohibitive costs involved in managing a subscription-based system for more than three million households in Quebec.

The City of Montreal Commission will have to choose between recommending either the opt-out option with potential improvements, or the opt-in option. Opt-in would also represent a threat to weekly newspapers, already affected by the media crisis, and to quality local information, essential for our democracy. Families would also miss out on opportunities for savings, as 87.1% of people who receive the flyers actually consult them, says a SEGMA poll, a survey ordered by Montreal. Lastly, it would lead to the disappearance of the leading promotional tool for local businesses who face intense competition from e-commerce retail giants, impoverishment of local life, the loss of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, including journalists, and would undermine commercial freedom and the public’s right to information.

The second demand from Antipublisac is to “replace all plastic bags for flyers with packaging that does not require separation from the content in order to be recycled”. We of course share the environmental concern regarding plastic. However, this bag remains the best solution for protecting the publications from bad weather. In addition, the Publisac represents an important opportunity to take a step closer to creating a circular economy for plastic, just as Quebec did in the past for paper.

It should be noted that TC Transcontinental has made impressive progress in this respect. A new bag, manufactured here in Quebec with 100% recycled plastic, which continues to be 100% recyclable, was launched in Montreal in September. It will be rolled out in October in the MMC then throughout Quebec by the end of the year. Tests are ongoing, in partnership with the City of Montreal, on bags that open under pressure in the waste collection truck, as a solution to the issue of recycling a product that combines plastic and paper. This month the company is also testing in Montreal the roll-out of paper covers for indoor distribution.

There is no need to carry out an action that will be detrimental to weekly newspapers, businesses, consumers and jobs. We should allow citizens to decide on the future of the Publisac through their use of weekly newspapers and flyers, and the possibility of freely choosing not to receive the bag if that is what they want.

Signed by:

Pierre-Alexandre Blouin, Chief Executive Officer, Association des détaillants en alimentation du Québec

Benoit Chartier, Chairman of the Board, Hebdos Québec

Yves-Thomas Dorval, President and Chief Executive Officer, Conseil du patronat du Québec

Stéphane Forget, Chief Executive Officer, Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec

Carole Hochu, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Plastics Industry Association

Denis Lebel, Président and Chief Executive Officer, Conseil de l’industrie forestière du Québec

Andrew Mulé, Vice President & General Manager, Métro Média