David Shiner shows off a plastic bag at a June 6, 2012 council meeting.
The ban on plastic bags survived a challenge from hostile councillors on Wednesday, but the controversial prohibition remains in legal limbo.
Mayor Rob Ford and his allies fell just short of securing the two-thirds majority needed to revisit the ban at Wednesday's council meeting, when a motion to put the issue back on the agenda failed narrowly in a vote of 27-18.
But despite Wednesday's vote, the ban is still not on the city's books, four months after council approved it.
The rule prohibiting retailers from giving out "single-use" plastic carriers is supposed to take effect on January 1, 2013. It was passed in June in a 27-17 vote spurred by a surprise motion from Councillor David Shiner.
But because the decision came without warning, city legal staff had no time to draft the corresponding bylaw and include it in the package of laws that are normally enacted in a single vote at the end of each council meeting.
Staff have since been working on the bylaw, but chose not to present it to the current council session because they were unsure whether the issue would be reopened.
Meanwhile, the ban continues to generate controversy, with Ford and other councillors arguing that the lack of study or public consultation before it was approved leaves the city vulnerable to legal challenges from retailers and the plastics industry.
Even its proponents are having second thoughts.
Following a closed door session with the city solicitor Tuesday, Shiner himself has become convinced that the matter requires more study. He said Wednesday that he will move a motion at the current council session (expected to stretch into Thursday) to take the draft ban bylaw to public consultation.
Once industry and the public have given their input, the bylaw would be brought back to council at its November meeting for final ratification.
"We're going to go forward with [the ban]," Shiner said "But we do want to make sure we hear from people, and make sure any bylaw we put in place tries to address issues in regards to how we implement this,."
Shiner said the consultations could clarify outstanding issues like whether retailers should be allowed to use up large quantities of plastic bags they may have in stock past January, whether some industries should be exempt, and which type of plastic bags the injunction applies to.
But with Tuesday's narrowly defeated vote indicating that a majority of councillors now have concerns about the ban, there remains the possibility that when the bylaw comes back to council, it will be separated out of the larger package at the end of that session and voted down.
City solicitor Anna Kinastowski says that it would be unprecedented for council to defeat a bylaw intended to enact one of its own decisions, but it's not impossible.
"It's uncharted territory," she told reporters Tuesday.
"We've never seen it happen. The clerk and I have chatted about it, she's never seen it happen. [But] we'll have to deal with it if and when it happens. I'm not going to speculate on what might be or not be."
According to Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, one of the ban's most vocal detractors, all options remain on the table.
"The issue isn't dead," Mammoliti said. "There are many of us that want this open, and we will do whatever we can to reopen the issue."