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LETTER: Going green would save plenty of green for Sault taxpayers

Working together, we can transform our city to the 'Greenest City in Canada'
2021-03-20 Letter

The following is a letter to the editor submitted by Ward 3 City Councillor Matthew Shoemaker:

The future is green, and the sooner we get on board, the more green we’ll save. 

At the Jan. 31, 2022 city council meeting, three environmental items were discussed and debated. First up on that night’s agenda was the purchase of the City’s first battery-powered Zamboni. Accompanying that decision was a motion I brought to request the city start buying electric weed eaters, lawn mowers and other small-engine equipment as we replace old equipment. Rounding out the trio was a request to staff to apply to the federal government’s two-billion tree planting fund. Tree planting is an area where the city can do better, though it has been improving. 

In 2017, while I was chair of the city’s Green Committee, I brought a motion asking that two trees be planted for every one tree that got cut down. It took a couple years, but in 2019 we hit the 2-to-1 target. Last year, council endorsed another of my requests, to take any unspent money from the $50,000 we spend annually on green initiatives and direct it to extra tree planting. In 2021, we had $17,000 unspent from our green initiatives money, which will be available to plant extra trees this spring/summer. That means 100+ additional trees will be planted this year in parks across the city. That’s over and above the 200+ trees the city regularly plants. 

I have and continue to lobby our MP, Terry Sheehan, to support the city’s application to the two-billion tree fund. He has confirmed he supports the city’s efforts in this regard, and will commit to fighting for the city’s share of that fund. Not only would a successful application to the two-billion tree fund mean more trees to plant, it could potentially mean more summer jobs for students to plant those trees. 

It is initiatives like this, combined with the efforts of others in the community, like the conversion of the steelmaking process at Algoma Steel from a blast furnace to an electric-arc furnace, that will continue to improve both the air quality, and the quality of life in the Sault. Working together, we can transform our city from the “Alternative Energy Capital of North America” to the “Greenest City in Canada”. 

As for the conversion from gas to electric weed eaters and lawn mowers, this is a step we need to take now, to help our environment going forward. We buy vehicles, machinery, buses and other equipment each year. The Zamboni was just the first example of where we can electrify our fleet. 

Another request that I put forward in 2021 was to ensure that any time we buy a new bus, or a new car at the City, we factor in the cost of gas, ongoing maintenance and the carbon impact in our pricing. We need to be sure we aren’t just getting the best price up front, but the best price over the life of the product. We should be harnessing our purchasing power, and working to buy in bulk with other municipalities that are buying the same products,  to ensure that our city lives up to its green reputation, shifts away from gas-powered engines and gets the best value for the money it is spending. This will not only make our city greener, but, as noted above, save us some green, especially with gas at $1.60 per litre.  

Matthew Shoemaker - City Councillor - Ward 3

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