Time to lay down the gauntlet against green extremists’ unjustified war on natural gas

Joseph QuesnelThe upcoming provincial election presents a crucial opportunity for Manitoba to stand up against the unwarranted assault on natural gas heating systems by environmental extremists.

Recently, Nanaimo, in British Columbia, passed a regulation prohibiting the use of natural gas heating in new home construction starting in July 2024. This trend is gradually making its way to other provinces, including Manitoba.

The possibility of a natural gas ban in Manitoba is not as far-fetched as it might seem. In 2021, it first appeared on the policy radar when a committee within the Winnipeg city government explored the idea of transitioning the city away from natural gas. Fortunately, this proposal was met with resistance from experts who highlighted its impracticality.

Referring to Nanaimo’s recent natural gas ban, a report from a B.C. newspaper cites a political science professor who believes that these bans at the city level are becoming a trend. It’s time to challenge this notion and draw a line against misguided climate policies.

natural gas manitoba election

Photo by Kwon Junho

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As we approach the federal government’s impossible-to-reach “net zero” emissions goals, there will be growing pressure from interest groups to push local governments into banning fossil fuel energy sources, especially natural gas, in favour of costly and unreliable renewable sources. The upcoming provincial election provides all parties an opportunity to affirm their support for consumer choice and affordable, reliable energy sources. This includes access to cheap and plentiful natural gas, which works well even at extremely low temperatures, unlike the expensive electric heat pumps pushed by the green lobby.

Manitoba could easily follow an emerging American precedent and take the drastic but necessary step of prohibiting municipalities from restricting or banning natural gas services. Provincial legislation, fortunately, supersedes municipal bylaws or regulations in case of conflicts. This means provinces can pass laws preventing municipal governments from imposing such bans by amending their legislation governing local governments (i.e. the City of Winnipeg Act), construction codes, and regional planning laws. This would ensure that unjustified restrictions on energy choice, such as banning gas stoves and furnaces, do not occur.

Winnipeg is known as one of the coldest cities in the world, and limiting heating options can have life-or-death consequences. Which political party will step up and declare Manitoba the first province in Canada to safeguard this essential energy choice for homeowners by prohibiting municipal bans on natural gas services? This commonsense policy, which costs nothing, would likely resonate with Manitoba voters.

As previously stated, there is a clear precedent in the U.S., where many states have enacted laws preventing local natural gas bans and protecting customer choice. The following states have laws prohibiting local government natural gas bans: Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Kansas. They are joined by at least seven other states that are also in the process of passing some form of legislation to prevent local government restrictions on energy choice.

Manitoba has an opportunity to lead the way in preventing municipal natural gas bans while inspiring other provinces to protect consumer energy choice through province-wide legislation.

Joseph Quesnel is a Senior Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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