NCC to cut gas-powered tools, and City of Ottawa could follow suit

·2 min read
The National Capital Commission is banning the use of gas-powered small tools, including leaf blowers, as of April 2023. (Jean Delisle/CBC - image credit)
The National Capital Commission is banning the use of gas-powered small tools, including leaf blowers, as of April 2023. (Jean Delisle/CBC - image credit)

The National Capital Commission will ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, hedge trimmers and other small tools on its property — and the City of Ottawa could potentially follow suit.

While the ban doesn't come into effect until April 2023, it shows "the NCC is committed to climate change leadership," said CEO Toby Nussbaum in a statement.

The new policy will also cover small chainsaws and line trimmers, the NCC said, and will apply to all of the agency's maintenance contractors.

The 2023 date was chosen to give enough time for those contractors to make the transition, said NCC spokesperson Dominique Huras.

Three-fifths of the NCC's own small tools are already battery-powered, Huras said.

According to the NCC, research out of California has shown firing up a top-selling, gas-powered commercial leaf blower for an hour generates as much pollution as driving 1,760 kilometres in a 2016 Toyota Camry — roughly the distance from Ottawa to Dryden, Ont.

California has already introduced legislation to outlaw the sale of gas-powered lawn equipment by 2024. Nussbaum said the NCC is the first jurisdiction in Canada to enact such a ban.

Jean Delisle/CBC
Jean Delisle/CBC

Used in parks, near schools

Inspired in part by the NCC's stance, Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King filed a notice of motion Tuesday at Ottawa's environment committee for the public works department to phase out gas-powered lawn and yard equipment when it needs to be replaced, and go electric.

The inefficient two-stroke engines used in the majority of such equipment emit "more than 20 times the toxic and cancer-causing exhaust" of a vehicle, King told the committee.

"Consider how frequently the city uses leaf blowers in public parks, near schools, or to maintain other public spaces," King said. "This is definitely a challenge."

It makes sense for us to step up our own efforts and transition away from this outdated, harmful technology as quickly as possible. - Coun. Rawlson King

They're also excessively loud, King noted, and typically exceed both the city's own noise bylaw for equipment, such as air conditioners and pool filtration pumps, and the World Health Organization's healthy standards for daytime noise.

WATCH | Councillor moves to ban gas-powered leaf blowers on city property

Other Canadian municipalities are considering similar bans, King said. The city already has many "reciprocal maintenance agreements" with the NCC, he added.

"It makes sense for us to step up our own efforts and transition away from this outdated, harmful technology as quickly as possible," he said.

King's motion will be considered at the next environment committee meeting in February 2022.

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