Winnipeg outside municipal climate leadership, looking in

OTTAWA has announced funding for cities across Canada that are leading the way in reducing emissions at a municipal level. Notably absent from the list: Winnipeg.

The Tuesday announcement by federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson unveiled the creation of a regional research hub at Simon Fraser University through a $21.7-million endowment. The innovation centre will serve the Greater Vancouver area in its pursuit of lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Vancouver is a member of the Low Carbon Cities Canada initiative. LC3 is a group of seven cities designated as the country’s leaders on climate action: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa and Halifax. It was formed under the leadership of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

“Canada cannot reach its climate targets without reducing emissions from its cities where over half of Canada’s carbon emissions originate from sources such as buildings, transportation, industry and waste,” Wilkinson said.

Since Winnipeg is not a member of the LC3 initiative, the city will be ineligible for similar federal funds for innovation and research projects going forward.

When asked Tuesday, neither Coun. Brian Mayes, chairman of the water, waste and environment committee, nor Coun. Jeff Browaty, Winnipeg’s representative to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, was aware of why Winnipeg wasn’t a part of the LC3 initiative.

Alex Boston of Simon Fraser University will oversee the creation of the B.C. innovation centre. He says the lessons learned, and the best practices that will be established in Vancouver and in the other six cities will be useful to other municipalities as they take on low-carbon projects in the future.

“The City of Toronto is now at the forefront of electrifying bus fleets. That insight and that learning that is acquired by the City of Toronto is going to diffuse right across the country,” Boston said.

He added communities such as North Vancouver have been driving provincial policies changes via greening building codes. Cities have enormous power to create change with regard to emissions, whether they’re big or small, Boston said.

Mayes admitted Winnipeg is lagging behind on many climate change fronts.

Winnipeg is easily comparable to cities like Edmonton in terms of size and climate. When it comes to innovative climate projects, Edmonton is light-years ahead — with the country’s largest net-zero neighbourhood currently under construction.

“If we’re going to start meeting some of these targets, then I think we have to be a little more active debating them here,” Mayes said, pointing to forthcoming pilot projects for Transit electrification and composting for ways Winnipeg is inching forward.
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