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BLESS snags $125K grant to fix viewing platform; Albertans skeptical about electric cars

BLESS platform cash

St. Albert taxpayers will have more money in the bank now that a local environmental group has snagged $125,000 to fund the new Big Lake viewing platform.

Big Lake Environment Support Society president Alan Hingston told the Gazette this week that BLESS had received a $125,000 Community Facility Enhancement Program grant to support repairs to the Big Lake viewing platform.

The platform closed in summer 2017 due to structural problems. Council voted last July to repair it for some $342,900.

Henry said BLESS applied for this grant to offset the cost of the repairs to taxpayers. The grant was exciting news, as the repaired platform would link up with the new trail announced by the province in Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park this month, the John E. Poole wetland boardwalk and future trails in the Trumpeter and Starling neighbourhoods just south of Big Lake.

“It will become a centre for tourism,” Henry said.

City of St. Albert finance director Diane McMordie said this grant would reduce the amount of cash the city has to spend on the repairs. The rest of the money would come from capital reserves or the $1.16-million Municipal Sustainability Initiative grant the city got earlier this month. The city is waiting on news on another grant before it allocates that MSI money.

City of St. Albert capital projects manager Jay Mason said crews planned to start work on the platform repairs this fall.

Electric car poll

Albertans are split 50/50 over whether or not they want their cars to be electric.

The Simon Fraser University think-tank Clean Energy Canada published a poll this week on Canadian attitudes toward electric cars.

The poll found some 64 per cent of Canadians wanted most cars on the road to be electric, with about 71 per cent predicting this would happen within 15 years.

Albertans were the least enthusiastic about electric cars in Canada, with just 51 per cent saying they wanted most cars to be electric and 49 per cent preferring gas. That’s within the survey’s margin of error, which suggests this province may be evenly split between gas and electric vehicle fans.

Alberta’s wariness about electric vehicles may stem from its oil-producing roots, as electric cars could reduce oil demand, said Dan Woynillowicz, policy director for Clean Energy Canada. But while electric cars may cause oil demand to peak at some point, most analysts say we’re still going to be using gasoline vehicles such as boats or planes for decades to come.

Others may be concerned about Alberta’s lack of electric car infrastructure, he continued – B.C. has about three times as many charging stations as us, for example. Alberta’s recently announced Peaks to Prairies project in southern Alberta (which commits provincial dollars to charging stations) could fill this gap if it expands.

The survey found charging stations and recharge times were two top factors that would influence a person’s decision to go electric.

St. Albert electric car owner Ron Kube said charging stations shouldn’t be an obstacle to going electric, as most drivers charge at home.

“We’ve operated our car now for a year and we’ve never used a public charging station.”

About 75 per cent of respondents thought electric vehicles were better for the climate than gas, but just 66 per cent thought they cost less to fuel and 36 per cent thought they cost less to maintain.

Electric cars generally cost about 60 to 70 per cent less to fuel and maintain than gas ones, depending on gas and electricity prices, Woynillowicz said.

“There’s a lot less that can go wrong with an electric car motor,” he said, as it has far fewer moving parts, and there’s no oil to change.

Kube said his family drove a Nissan Leaf for 17,000 kilometres last year and saved about $2,600 on fuel compared to their old car, as their home has enough solar panels on it to power the Leaf. (The U.S. Department of Energy pegs the annual fuel cost of a 2018 Nissan Leaf at $600.) So far, they’ve spent $0 on maintenance.

“It’s very quiet and it’s very fun to drive,” Kube said.

The online poll involved some 1,495 Canadians 18 or over and is accurate to within 2.45 per cent 19 times out of 20. See for full results.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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