Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner enjoyed a little ‘un-guilty’ pleasure recently in Otterville, touring the scenic village in a licensed, road-legal, low-speed GEM electric vehicle.
“Fun to drive, absolutely, I really enjoyed driving it,” said Schreiner, impressed with both its environmentally friendly operation and performance. “We took it up the hill as we went around the falls, plenty of power to operate a full vehicle.”
Schreiner is Ontario’s first elected Green MPP, proud and honoured to represent his home riding of Guelph in the legislature, but also mindful of the party leader’s broader mandate. The Tuesday, July 9th stop in Otterville was the eighteenth of 22 during a seven-day Clean & Caring Economy Tour, Schreiner sharing the party’s vision of answering climate change through creating new jobs and prosperity within the $26-trillion global clean economy.
“Listening and learning about what are the kinds of solutions that will help Ontario embrace the economy of the future, create jobs and generate prosperity,” Schreiner explained.
He and his three-member support team pulled in inside a Chevy Volt, whose operational cost he identified as one-fifth that of an internal combustion engine.
“I like to tell people I’m always looking for green solutions that are a win for your pocketbook, help you save money, a win for our economy, we can create jobs, and a win for the environment as we deal with this climate emergency that we’re facing.”
Polaris GEM low-speed electric vehicles are offered through Otterville Custom Golf Carts, a family business operationally overseen by brothers Brandon and Jaron Heleniak, introduced to the concept via customer inquiry. Well beyond servicing the golf industry, the business provides custom, branded carts for use in resort areas, campgrounds, warehouses, marinas, airports and assisted living areas.
Comparatively recent provincial legislation allowing licensed, insured and properly equipped low-speed electric vehicles to legally operate on the road with a speed limit of 50 kilometres or fewer, and directly cross those with a limit of 60KPH, encompasses and broadens those options, with the added benefit of quiet, exhaust-free and environmentally friendly operation.
“The more we looked into it, the more excited we became about their potential and convinced their time has come,” said Brandon. “They’re ideal in enclosed areas and offer a real combination of operational affordability and environmental consciousness.”
“And, they’re just a blast to drive,” added Jaron with a smile.
GEMs combine innovative design with Polaris’ proven track record in two, four and six-passenger, and utility (1,400-pound payload) models. Overnight charging in a standard 110-volt household outlet provides up to a 60-kilometre range at an estimated cost of 50 cents.
Schreiner’s own vehicular preference underlines his enthusiasm for electric vehicles, expanded following a tour of Otterville’s main drag, dam and historic Treffry Mill.
“I’m a big fan of electric vehicles, and to have electrical vehicles like this seem perfect for cities or campgrounds or parks, things like that. I can see a lot of municipalities, I can see Ontario Parks and other organizations, I can see individuals who just need something that’s easy to maybe run down to the store and pick up some groceries or putter around town for the afternoon.”
Transportation represents Ontario’s largest source of green house gas pollution, says Schreiner.
“So everything we can do to reduce emissions and do it in an affordable, cost-effective way is a benefit for everyone.”
Schreiner and company piled back into the Volt, heading onward for tour stops 19 through 21, and a closing town hall in Toronto, empowered by the response to that point. Everywhere he has gone says Schreiner, he has been received ‘very positively’ by businesses, farms and colleges and universities putting forward solutions.
“What it tells me is the people of Ontario are problem solvers not problem deniers. And we’re coming up with solutions on how we can deal with the climate emergency in a way that creates jobs and prosperity. And then we can re-invest in our communities to make sure we have a high-quality education and health care and social services, the kinds of things that make Ontario a great place to live.”