By Ben DuPlessis
HRM council has voted to change its focus from air to water pollution, and some people, like Jen Powley, don’t like the smell of this.
Powley, HRM coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, says the issue of idling vehicles and their effect on air quality is far too often ignored in favour of other problems.
“I think it needs to be higher on their radar; it doesn’t seem like anything is actually being done. Even though we have the provincial item in place,” says Powley, “there doesn’t seem to be anyone enforcing it, nor does there seem to be any repercussion for going against it.
“Nothing is happening.”
The NDP provincial government passed an anti-idling act in 2010, but it only applies to vehicles either operated by the government or with more than 17 seats. This meant bus companies were required to implement anti-idling policies.
The act came into effect on Oct 1, 2011, although bus drivers continue to idle their vehicles in winter months to keep warm.
The bylaw that applies to non-government vehicles or buses is actually an anti-noise bylaw. It says a driver can’t idle for more than five minutes.
“The bylaw doesn’t say it’s bad for air quality, it simply says it’s annoying to other people,” says Powley.
“It’s great that the legislation is there, then you need enforcement. The other part is that you need education and behaviour change. You need to get people to modify their behaviour, get them to understand why it’s important to change and make it simple.”
Last year, council debated a new anti-idling bylaw, also aimed at stopping municipal government vehicles from parking with a puttering engine.
Powley says a lot of people are confused about idling. After ten seconds of idling your car, she says, it’s more efficient to turn it off and restart it.
She says the bottom line is, with rising fuel prices, you’ll save more money if you stop idling.
And for those who idle their cars to stay warm in the winter, Powley has a suggestion.
“Maybe, in today’s world, we need to start thinking about more than our superficial warmth. Maybe we need to start dressing for the weather.
“We’re pretty used to the convenience of getting into a warm car. In fact, maybe we should buy the entire city a pair of gloves. Maybe mittens.”