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A greener Parliament Hill? House of Commons looking into swapping out shuttles for EV option

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The House of Commons is looking into whether it can go greener by swapping out its parliamentary precinct shuttles for an electric vehicle alternative.

It’s issued a request for information online to hear from battery-powered vehicle providers and explore the possibility of making the switch for the more than a dozen shuttles that are in service.

The shuttle busses transport MPs, senators, and other staff to various buildings used for parliamentary business, spanning a more than one-kilometre loop in downtown Ottawa from the Senate of Canada Building and across Parliament Hill to the Supreme Court.

Mathieu Gravel, a spokesperson for the Speaker’s office, said the possibility of switching the fleet to electric vehicles is “in line with the greening of the parliamentary precinct,” a broader long-term plan to make the area more environmentally friendly.

“We have to start somewhere,” he said.

The request for information is under the purview of the Board of Internal Economy — the governing body for the House of Commons — and not the government. But the latter has set a target of 60 per cent of vehicle sales being electric by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2035. And it’s been aiming make government fleets more environmentally friendly since 2018.

“Obviously I think there’s an acknowledgement that whenever there is a green alternative that’s on the market, we have a duty and an obligation to look at it and analyze it carefully,” Gravel said.

The request for information is part of a larger lifecycle review of the fleet, Gravel noted, adding it’s the first time an electric vehicle alternative is being weighed as an option.

“Now they’re taking a broader approach because they’re considering electric vehicles,” he said.

EVs could be ideal for the route, he said, noting the shuttles do a relatively short circuit around and they can be recharged quickly.

Gravel said that while the shuttles’ route may not seem significant, the parliamentary precinct is “broader” than what many assume, and members make use of the buses often.

“(When) people think Parliament, they think West Block, East Block, and that’s basically it, but with the revitalization of Centre Block and the Senate taking place in the old government conference centre, it’s really expanded the campus, as it was known a few years ago, so the demands on the fleet are greater,” he said

“I think most (MPs) would say they’re on those shuttle buses a number of times a day … there’s a significant distance, I know it seems like a short jaunt, but if you needed to be somewhere 10 minutes ago … they can be super helpful for members.”

The request for information is an initial step in the fleet’s review process, before the House of Commons may choose to issue a formal request for proposals “if they find that there are solutions on the market that can meet the needs of the members and what the fleet needs to deliver in terms of service,” Gravel said.

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