Electric heating, opening up of Portage and Main and Winnipeg’s urban forest at the center of the electoral campaign

Winnipeg is officially one month away from announcing its new mayor.

As the clock continues to tick, some of the mayoral candidates were campaigning to tell Winnipeggers how they would help the city.

Shaun Loney announced his plan Monday to cut heating costs for Winnipeg residents.

Calling it “The Big Switch,” Loney said he wanted to modernize the water and waste service.

He wants Winnipeg families to be able to switch from natural gas heating to electric pump heating by 2030, saying it would save money on energy bills and reduce carbon footprints.

“City Hall acted on the wrong assumption that switching to heat pumps is a financial burden,” Loney said in a press release. “The reverse is true. We just need a vision and new financing tools to reduce or eliminate upfront costs like we already do with water and natural gas utilities.”

His plan would see at least 40,000 families and businesses switch to electric pumps.

The water and waste utility would be renamed Winnipeg Water, Waste and Heat, and the utility would install underground loops for geothermal heat pumps, then charge a monthly fee to access the loops.

“A modest monthly fee will be applied to recoup installation costs over time. This will be very similar to how Manitoba Hydro’s Centra Gas subsidiary currently manages the cost of natural gas service. This will give Winnipeggers an attractive new option to reduce both their heating bills and their carbon footprint.”

He said companies could also fund the installation of the pumps through property tax bills.

Rana Bokhari also revealed details about one of her campaign promises.

She said that if elected mayor, she would open the gates at Portage and Main to make the intersection accessible to everyone.

“The barriers are already falling,” she said in a press release. “According to engineering reports, the barriers are impeding major repairs needed at the underground hall. Once they are lowered, they will not rise again.”

She said the only major argument for bringing down the barriers was that it meant traffic would slow down in the area.

“Placing people in vehicles above all other types of commuters shouldn’t be the reason we keep the intersection closed. People should be able to cross our famous intersection, whether they are walking, taking the bus, cycling or driving.

She thinks this would provide better access for Winnipeggers living with disabilities and also bring more people back to the area, which would help support local businesses.

Finally, Jenny Motkaluk focused on protecting and enhancing Winnipeg’s urban forest.

“We have 300,000 municipal trees that form our urban forest and provide shade, beauty and life to our ecosystem. It protects us from heat and removes pollution, stabilizes groundwater runoff, and our urban forest is one of the things we celebrate. But City Hall has not given our urban forest the love it needs,” Motkaluk said in a press release Monday.

She said the forest department’s budget had been cut by 36% and the city was not keeping pace with replacing fallen trees, adding that there were 14,500 trees that needed to be replaced.

“As mayor of Winnipeg, I will put our money where it counts and protect and nurture our urban forest.”

She said she is committing to planting two trees for every tree that comes down to the city, which she says will amount to around 11,000 trees a year.

Motkaluk added that this would be funded by revenue from new infrastructure projects, management practices and savings and by attracting growth and investment to Winnipeg.

She has indicated that she will not raise taxes on Winnipeggers.

“My plan to properly fund achievable goals to plant trees and prune them regularly will keep our city greener, happier and healthier for decades to come.”

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