Island municipality considers ban on gas-powered leaf blowers
VICTORIA -- Oak Bay councillors are set to vote on a motion that would move forward with a potential ban on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the municipality.
The motion was brought forward by Councillor Tara Ney as a means for the community to limit its carbon footprint, improve air quality and reduce noise pollution.
“It’s a lot of emissions to move around some leaves,” she said of the machinery in an interview with CTV News on Friday.
Ney pointed to research that has said running the two-stroke engine machines emits much more pollution than running a car for the same amount of time.
Widely cited in the debate is data from California’s Environmental Protection Agency, which shows using a commercial gas-powered leaf blower is like driving 1,100 miles or 1,770 km in a mid-sized sedan.
Ney said with Oak Bay declaring a climate emergency, she believed it was time to take action.
“We’re in a place right now, on the planet, where we have to weigh up what is the value of our environment, our planet, our health and our wellbeing,” Ney said.
Cam McLennan, owner of Island Pro Mowing and Landscaping, doesn’t agree with a ban.
“I think it’s a little crazy,” he said.
McLennan said there’s no heavy-duty electrical equivalent. He believes most batteries would run out in 15 minutes, and that would lead to more time to do jobs. Another issue, he said, would be for small companies to replace their current equipment.
“One of two things is going to happen: either the price of service will go through the roof or service will go elsewhere,” McLennan said.
Ney agreed there are practicalities that need to be sorted out. She said she’s in favour of an incremental approach and said she thinks opening up a debate around changing the culture of convenience in favour of one prioritizing climate action will be helpful.
Her motion calls for Oak Bay's community climate action working group to consider the recommendation and create a report on gas-powered leaf blowers for the council. The report would include information on a ban's possible administrative, operational and financial impacts on the community. The motion goes before council Monday.
Ney's motion references green alternatives to gas-powered leaf blowers, including rakes, brooms and electric-powered blowers.
Another issue with the machines is noise pollution. Ney said she’s heard many complaints, and McLennan said his staff has been confronted by people unhappy with the sound.
Still, McLennan thinks focusing on users instead of producers is a mistake. He believes governments should direct their attention elsewhere.
“I think if anything, maybe the idea is that through the provincial or federal government we start to look at things where the actual producers of these gas-powered blowers look at making them more efficient," he said.
With files from CTV News Vancouver Island's Adam Chan