Edmonton city councillor rethinking e-bike rebate program in light of pandemic
'It seems so tone deaf in the midst of COVID,' says Scott McKeen
When Edmonton city council approved $600,000 earlier this year to fund its Change for Climate program, COVID-19 wasn't on the scene.
The three-year rebate program is made up of two components: $450,000 to fund electric vehicle charging units for homes and business, and $150,000 to cover 30 per cent of an e-bike purchase of up to $750.
Coun. Scott McKeen is now having second thoughts about the e-bike rebates. He says he's heard from many Edmontonians recently that in light of the pandemic, it's out of sync.
"It seems so tone deaf in the midst of COVID. People are losing their jobs, businesses are teetering on the brink. These are absolutely anxiety-ridden economic times," he said.
McKeen plans a notice of motion at Monday's council meeting that will set the stage to repeal the e-bike rebate program. It will likely be debated by councillors at the next meeting in two weeks.
"I can't defend this to myself. And if I can't defend this to myself, I certainly can't defend it to anybody else," he said.
"It is indefensible in these times to be giving away hundreds of dollars in a rebate to buy e-bikes, which are somewhat of a luxury."
The City of Edmonton says it received an overwhelming response to the rebate program, which set aside $50,000 a year for the three years. The first instalment for 2020 has already been committed, but McKeen would like to see the remaining $100,000 used to help Edmontonians during this pandemic.
"My first blush in thinking on this is to put it into some sort of COVID response. That might be the answer. There might be other ways we can use it to further our goals around climate change. I'm open to that," he said.
McKeen says he's more comfortable with the remaining $450,000 earmarked for electric vehicle charging units for homes and businesses. He calls that funding more relevant, while still contributing to the city's important climate change goals.
"It does not seem as out of sync because we now have a lot of people investing in electric vehicles," he said.
McKeen said the rebate program was tucked inside a larger program during budget deliberations.
"I should have given it more attention," he admitted.
"When you have a budget written in billions of dollars, I think sometimes these smaller programs may not get the right attention."