Editor's note: The video in this article contains some explicit language.
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - “It’s a f****** joke. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. All of you.’’
That was the scene Tuesday night as Charlottetown Police Chief Paul Smith escorted Matthew Lepley, a member of the Extinction Rebellion P.E.I. – Affinity Group, out of council chambers at City Hall.
Lepley and fellow group member Daphnée Azoulay were conducting a loud demonstration on the climate emergency outside City Hall for a half hour prior to council’s regular public monthly meeting.
Lepley interrupted the council meeting once to ask why council wasn’t talking about the climate emergency. He then asked again a few minutes later, except this time he began chastising council.
“This is an emergency. Yesterday was Remembrance Day. (These soldiers) sacrificed their lives for us,’’ Lepley cried out, noting that council formally declared a climate emergency in April only to recently pass a resolution to purchase six diesel buses rather than electric.
“It’s ridiculous,’’ Lepley said.
Mayor Philip Brown then called for an immediate recess while Smith moved to deal with the protester.
“If you’re going to carry on, you’re going to get arrested,’’ Smith warned Lepley. “You’ve made your point, thank you.’’
With that, Smith escorted an emotional Lepley out of the building.
Prior to the meeting, The Guardian spoke with Lepley.
“(It’s time) to wake people up to how serious things are because Charlottetown city council aren’t taking things seriously enough,’’ he said, criticizing council for not creating a climate emergency task force or climate action plan.
Extincton Rebellion P.E.I., a group Azoulay was with before creating her own Affinity Group, was also protesting outside City Hall, chanting “no more diesel’’ in reference to the bus matter.
Tony Reddin, a member of the group, said he understands from meetings with Mike Cassidy, who operates T3 Transit, as well as Charlottetown MP Sean Casey, that Charlottetown, Cornwall and Stratford could go electric with its buses in less than two years. He suggested the city order diesel hybrid buses in the meantime.
Coun. Terry MacLeod, chairman of the environment and sustainability committee, said the city has set 2023 as a realistic goal of going electric.
“It depends on the next round of money that comes in (federally),’’ MacLeod said. “There has been a lot of work done to the transit system to get it to where it is today and we can’t just cut it off and say we’re going to wait for an electric bus.’’
An electric transit bus costs about $1 million each right now versus $600,000 for a diesel bus. There are also associated costs with moving to an electric system. MacLeod said it would cost about $1 million (cost-shared between the three levels of government) to construct a building to house the buses in, not to mention all of the charging stations that would have to be installed throughout the city. Each electric bus would also require a petroleum heater and MacLeod said a new battery for one bus runs about $200,000. The city is also talking to Maritime Electric about what the billing system would look like.
“We are very much concerned about going electric,’’ MacLeod said. “Should we have been doing this 15 years ago? Probably, but right now we’re doing our best.’’