Quest to phase out gas-powered yard equipment fuels summer pilot project

The City of Ottawa will look at phasing out the use of small gas-powered tools in favour of electric ones, starting with a pilot project this summer in the department that maintains parks and trees and cuts the grass along roads.

City of Ottawa crews to test electric versions of leaf blowers, other small tools this summer

A leaf blower at work in downtown Ottawa during an unseasonably warm spell in late fall. (Jean Delisle/CBC)


  • City council approved the motion April 13, 2022. Coun. George Darouze was the only vote against.

The City of Ottawa will look at phasing out small, gas-powered yard tools in favour of electric ones, starting with a pilot project this summer in the department that maintains parks and trees and trims the grass along roads.

The move was led by Rideau-Rockcliffe ward Coun. Rawlson King, and is aimed at reducing the fumes, pollution and noise from leaf blowers and other equipment.

King's motion was approved Tuesday by the standing committee on environmental protection, water and waste management, but still needs full council's approval April 13.

"This motion is a result of residents' advocacy," said King, who added he's been working with constituents to close gaps in city policies after it declared a climate emergency in 2019.

"If we are very serious in hitting our climate targets, our emission targets, we really need to start examining and start using this technology."

King first signalled he wanted to discuss the city's yard equipment last November after the National Capital Commission decided to ban such gas-powered tools starting in 2023.

The public works department is the biggest user of such equipment and supports King's idea, said Allyson Downs, the city's director of parks and forestry services. 

Three or four crews will try out electric blowers, trimmers and small chainsaws this summer at a cost of about $40,000 or $50,000. Batteries are the biggest cost, said Downs.

"We're not going to stop there," she said, explaining public works would look at how to transition all of its small equipment from gas to electric.

Concerns over batteries

The recreation department, meanwhile, also intends to make the shift. It has also taken an inventory and determined it has 224 leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other equipment.

As for the fire service, deputy fire chief Dave Matschke said it has nearly 300 gas-powered devices for emergency work, but few electric options exist right now that would have the required power.

Two committee members — councillors George Darouze and Allan Hubley — dissented on King's motion over concerns about battery technology.

"For small equipment, it's not there yet," said Darouze, who represents the rural ward of Osgoode where residents have large properties. Darouze said he bought an electric blower and, "I can't even finish my yard."

Hubley, too, wondered about the shift and whether the city would need a "warehouse full of batteries" that are kept charged.

On the other hand, Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard asked how it might be possible for the city to move even more quickly, and also get residents to abandon gas-powered tools.

Public works staff intend to report back to committee with a departmental plan for green equipment after next fall's municipal election.


Kate Porter


Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past two decades, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.


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