Manitobans applaud federal government’s decision to spend big on greener transportation

Kevin Celestino spends long hours sitting in front of a computer in his career as an architect, but he decided 10 years ago he needed exercise he would enjoy. That’s when he began devoting time to riding his bicycle.

Now, Celestino continues to get around Winnipeg on his bicycle most of the time year round. He says while cycling infrastructure has come a long way since 2012, all forms of green infrastructure need to be prioritized.

“If the infrastructure is there it welcomes people to do it. It makes it easier for someone who hasn’t tried it,” Celestino said. “That safety net is so important getting into it for the first time in a long time. Infrastructure: build it; they will come.”

Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault unveiled the federal government’s plan to drastically curb greenhouse gas emissions for the next eight years to meet ambitious 2030 reduction targets, with plans for the country to be hit a zero-emission target by 2050.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that 60 per cent of all new personal vehicles sold in Canada will be zero-emission by 2030. The transportation sector is the second-leading source of emissions.

In Manitoba, transportation accounts for the largest portion of greenhouse gas emissions — about 40 per cent.

A greater reliance on zero-emissions vehicles will help curb emissions in the province, and Micah Boisjoli is all for it.

The owner of Greenway Motors in Transcona North, Boisjoli sells used electric vehicles. He is all for the federal government spending $1.7 billion to extend existing incentives that offer credits to people who buy zero-emissions vehicles, and promising $400 million in new funding to add 50,000 charging stations across Canada.

Boisjoli says 10 years ago there were only three charging stations in Manitoba. Today there are upwards of 100 with more being added every week.

Canada wants to add 50,000 charging stations to its network in an effort to persuade more people to drive zero-emission vehicles. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

“I think the charging infrastructure is certainly very important,” he said. “I think it sounds like the federal announcement really hit a couple of key topics.”

Manitoba short on EV incentives

Incentives have worked particularly in some places outside Manitoba, including British Columbia, which offers a vehicle rebate of up to $3,000 after leasing or buying a new EV through the CleanBC Go Electric program.

“Incentives definitely do increase sales of the electric vehicles,” Boisjoli said. “If you look at different jurisdictions across Canada, B.C. and Quebec have had provincial rebates for many years and they sell the vast majority of electric vehicles in Canada.”

Micah Boisjoli owns Greenway Motors, a used electric vehicle business in Winnipeg’s Transcona North area. (Submitted by Micah Boisjoli)

After gas prices shot up within the past month, Boisjoli says he has received more inquiries about electric vehicles.

There is a higher up-front cost for electric vehicles, but he says the average cost per kilometre is 1.5 cents for an electric vehicle, compared with a gas- or diesel-powered vehicle that ranges from 10 cents to 20 cents per kilometre.

That doesn’t include the lower operating cost in terms of maintenance for electric vehicles, he says.

“Some people are ready to buy, some people are asking questions, and I think that’s the most important thing, is we need to educate everyone on the technology,” Boisjoli said.

“If a person reaches out and speaks to someone who has been driving an electric vehicle for a long time, especially in Manitoba … you’ll learn that they they do work here and they are a viable transportation alternative.”

Winnipeg Transit eyes zero-emission buses

Increased use of public transportation will also cut down on emissions, and the City of Winnipeg is aiming to eliminate nearly 62 tonnes of greenhouse gas annually for every zero-emission bus in its fleet.

The city currently does not have any zero-emission buses in operation, but in an email to CBC News a city spokesperson said an application under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure program has been submitted to buy 100 to 110 such buses for Winnipeg Transit by 2027.

The city estimates it will save more than $75 million during the lifetime of the first buses, with the transition to zero-emission buses estimated to cut greenhouse gas emissions between 80,000 and 90,000 tonnes over the next decade, the spokesperson added.

A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton in December 2018. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Provincially, since the inauguration of the Conservation and Climate Fund in 2020-21, Manitoba has supported commercial vehicle electrification pilots and projects to install electric vehicle chargers in municipalities and institutions.

Celestino feels people talk differently about climate change in Manitoba compared with a place such as B.C. because it’s not as noticeable from day to day here compared with the West Coast. 

He believes the enormity of climate change itself is difficult to comprehend, and instead offers the idea of community-focused solutions — similar to the cycling community he says has come to enjoy being part of in Winnipeg.

“If we truly take care of ourselves and have a community that supports us, from there we can create a bigger impact than trying to solve climate change, however daunting that sounds.”

Incentives for greener transportation applauded

1 hour ago

Duration 2:34

A pair of Manitobans who support zero-emission transportation say they’re pleased with the federal plan announced Tuesday. 2:34