‘Smart taxes,’ compost, better public transit ideas floated by mayoral hopefuls for greener Winnipeg

A mayoral hopeful wants to use his social enterprise background to get Winnipeggers thinking about — and acting on — climate change.

“This city hall thinks that our carbon emissions are a problem, and we have to spend money to address the problem. Its not a problem. It’s our biggest economic opportunity we’ve had available to us in a generation,” Shaun Loney said.

Loney, who’s helped create five different social enterprise businesses, wants to introduce “smart taxes” if he were mayor.

Essentially, they’re taxes or policies that reward businesses who focus on things like cutting carbon emissions or reducing the amount of water runoff in the city’s sewer system, which eventually runs into Lake Winnipeg.

Some of Loney’s ideas include speeding up permits for projects that reduce carbon emissions. Another is adding taxes to businesses that own parking lots, so they’ll be encouraged to use the land for something else.

The City of Winnipeg just adopted a sustainable procurement policy, which gives businesses more points in the contract selection process if they show they want to help the greater good.

“That would stay the same. We’d just drive it hard,” said Loney.

Net zero carbon emissions goal for Winnipeg by 2050

City council just adopted a document that urgently discusses the importance of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. 

“There is no time to waste,” the document states.

About 48 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Winnipeg come from cars on the road, according to city data. 

Many candidates CBC spoke with said they wanted to get people out of cars by improving transit and active transportation routes.

For Don Woodstock, that means focusing on electric buses.

“My ambition is in 20 years or so, we would have a city that has pure electrification of buses,” said Woodstock in an interview.

“But that’s going to take some time. It’s going to take some federal dollars, provincial dollars.”

Rick Shone wants every vehicle the city uses to be electric. He also wants to phase out gas-powered lawn and yard equipment, among other green changes. He and Christopher Clacio committed to bringing composting to Winnipeg in some way.

Rana Bokhari said she wanted all municipal buildings to be net zero, and said she’d also focus on active and transit transportation routes.

Jessica Peebles wants to see city hall install solar panels, and cut the amount of gas emergency vehicles use.

Glen Murray said he wants to focus on making homes more electric, as well as making sure all public transit buses are electric. He said he’ll have more information on that later in the campaign.

Scott Gillingham said he’d have more policy announcements coming out about reducing carbon emissions, but suggested the city needs more infill housing and to move ahead on active transportation plans. He also approves of electrifying more transit buses.

Jenny Motkaluk, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Idris Ademuyiwa Adelakun and Desmond Thomas did not respond by deadline.

Durdana Islam is the program manager for Manitoba’s Climate Action Team. (Submitted by Durdana Islam)

Experts say one challenge the new mayor will have, no matter what they decide to focus on, is teamwork.

“In Manitoba, the municipal government and the provincial government work in silos,” said Durdana Islam, program manager at Manitoba Climate Action Team — a network of different groups in the province that focus on sustainability.

“We have to look at the bigger goals that this has to be done and this has to have an aggressive strategy. Working with three levels of government, that’s a quality the new mayor has to have because our current mayor, we haven’t seen a lot of progress in that department.”

Islam suggested the number one priority for the city next term, when it comes to climate change, is encouraging greener transportation — whether that means getting people on public transit or using active transportation.

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