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Blowers blow, says Michael Walker

Amid the leaden twelve-page agenda for the March 5 and 6 council meeting, one item stands out: Councillor Michael Walker (Ward 22 – St. Paul’s) is bringing forward a notice of motion to restrict the use of leaf blowers, with an eye towards banning them outright. I’m told by some veteran press gallery wags that it’s a rite of spring: Walker proposes this motion every year, and every year it gets shot down. But maybe this idea’s time has finally come.

I don’t remember exactly when leaf blowers first came on the market, but I remember my reaction when I first saw them advertised on TV, and it went something like this: Has the planet gone mad? What the hell is wrong with a rake? And what’s next, a machine that makes snowmen? It seemed to me that the convenience gained by the contraption was nil, because you still had to painstakingly walk through the yard and make sure you got the leaves out of every corner—except now you had to carry fifteen pounds of equipment around with you, instead of a half-pound rake. I am rarely prone to outbursts of eco-indignation, but burning fossil fuels to collect leaves brought it out in me. This machine, I thought, was surely invented by big oil.

Meanwhile, outside my head in what passes as the real world, there’s endless talk around city hall of congestion charges, road tolls, parking levies and other complicated measures to keep people from bringing their cars downtown. I’ve heard a proposal to link people’s property taxes to the amount of green space in their front yard—an inverse charge on parking pads. This council seems prepared to consider any combination of positive and negative incentives to prod people into changing their behaviour for the good of the planet. For this they should be commended. But if so, then why not ban leaf blowers? Maybe it’s not ambitious enough. Maybe it’s not complicated enough. It’s worth considering.

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