British Columbia

Vancouver Island community to consider banning gas-powered leaf blowers

A local politician in the greater Victoria community of Oak Bay says her municipality could help fight climate change by banning gas-powered leaf blowers.

Oak Bay councillor suggests banning leaf blowers as a part of the district's climate change plan

Oak Bay Councillor Tara Ney is an advocate of raking. She's calling for a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in the municipality, which she hopes would be the first step to an all-out ban on leaf blowers. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

A councillor in Oak Bay, B.C., near Victoria, wants to put an end to gas-powered leaf blowers in her community. 

Tara Ney is proposing the ban as part of the municipality's actions to fight climate change. Oak Bay council, like many others in the region, has declared a climate emergency. 

"There's many kinds of [climate] initiatives that are difficult for local government to do single-handedly, but this is one that can be done that will have a demonstrable effect."

According to the California Air Resources board, a public agency set up to fight air pollution, using a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as a modern sedan driving 1,770 kilometres.

Ney says a ban on the leaf blowers could also improve health, because studies show the noise they create exceeds the World Health Organization's standards. 

Too soon for a switch 

Kevin Bunting, the owner and operator of Island Horticultural Services in Victoria, uses a leaf blower for three to five hours a day as part of his landscaping work. He agrees that gas models are loud, smelly, and create emissions and particles that he doesn't enjoy breathing in. 

Landscaper Kevin Bunting says he'd love to make the switch from gas to electric leaf blowers, but the electric models are still too expensive, and less efficient. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

He's been looking at switching to electric leaf blowers, but says the technology hasn't caught up yet. He says the electric options are more expensive, less powerful, and their batteries have prohibitively short lives. 

"To simply ban something before there's a replacement that we can use, is like banning all gas cars and saying that all of us would have to buy an electric car. We're just not ready for that to happen yet."

Landscaper Kevin Bunting fires up a gas-powered leaf blower while working north of Victoria, B.C. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

Bunting hopes Oak Bay, where he does half his business, will hold off on a ban. Otherwise, he says he'll have to stop doing business there, or raise his rates. 

'A phased-in approach' 

Ney tried suggesting a leaf blower ban in 2014, but it went nowhere. This time, she's optimistic it will fit in with the district's climate plan. 

She says if there isn't support for an outright ban, there are still ways to limit use. A community near Montreal, for example, banned leaf blowers in summers only. Another option would be to ban them for residential use. Ney says there would be plenty of public consultation to sort out the details.

Oak Bay council will discuss the proposal on Monday.