Harper’s made-in-Canada Kyoto plan and the Ottawa mayor’s race

I have been arguing in these posts that a fundamental shift away from fossil fuel use and toward low–emission intensity electricity should be an integral part of Canada’s emission reduction strategy. This is easily doable, especially in the transportation sector, where electric powered vehicles are truly the wave of the future.

In fact, the shift is already underway and has been for some time. Toronto’s electric-powered subways and streetcars have carried untold millions of passengers for decades. Toronto’s air is clogged from the exhaust of fossil-fueled motor vehicles—imagine how much worse it would be if the city’s subways and streetcars were diesel-powered.

In view of this, the City of Ottawa’s plan to build an electric light-rail artery into downtown is not just smart growth. It also embodies a visionary and practical approach to reducing transportation emissions. The electric power that will propel this train—if the project becomes a reality—will by the time the train begins running be more than three-quarters emission free (provided Ontario, the jurisdiction that provides power to Ottawa, indeed rehabilitates or replaces its currently laid up nuclear capacity).

When hybrid electric vehicles become widespread (as experts predict they will), I can see city by-laws requiring drivers to operate vehicles on electric power within city limits. Combined with electrified mass transit, transportation emissions will drop like a stone.

There are four short weeks to go before the Ottawa municipal elections, and things are already getting tense. The single biggest issue is the electric light rail plan. Only one candidate, Mayor Bob Chiarelli, supports it. Federal treasury board president John Baird, whose government promised $200 million for transit in Ottawa, now wants a new review of the plan before he forks over the cash. Regardless of the partisan politics at play here, electrified mass transit must be part of any plan to reduce emissions. The Harper government should ultimately support Ottawa’s electric light rail plan.

In the mean time, let’s hope the voters of Ottawa choose it. Their children and grandchildren will thank them for it.

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16 years ago

Your contention that only “one candidate, Mayor Bob Chiarelli, supports” light-rail is simply incorrect.

Alex Munter has stated very clearly in this election that in respect of light rail he wants to “fix it, not nix it.”

There are now three clear choices: one candidate, Bob Chiarelli, who wants to stay with a flawed plan; another, Larry O’Brien, who wants to kill ligh-rail; and only one, Alex Munter, who wants to fix the light-rail plan to take more people out of their cars and put them on public transit, to do more for all communities, and to cost less for taxpayers.

Steve Aplin
16 years ago

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment. I make it clear that Chiarelli is the only candidate supporting electrified light rail. Munter opposes it, and betrays a lack of understanding of electricity in general by comparing diesel-powered rail favourably against electrified — because he seems to think Ontario electricity comes entirely from coal. Less than twenty percent does. Munter might not intend to kill light rail but he will definitely delay it, possibly by years. We can’t afford to wait for yet more fossil-fueled transportation.