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The Amalgamated Transit Union says it has a way to help Winnipeg Transit move towards an electric fleet despite a decrease in transit funding from the province.

ATU 1505 President Aleem Chaudhary proposed a Pay As You Save financing approach Thursday morning. That means if the plan was implemented, the province would loan $7-million, interest free to Winnipeg Transit to cover the difference in capital costs of switching approximately 12-20 diesel buses to electric.

Winnipeg Transit would then pay the province back with new revenue from operating funds generated by the switch.

Chaudary says it’s a model that has been used elsewhere and it can work here.

“It’s a project that has been tested, it works and we want to see the province and city move forward with it,” Chaudary said. “We know they’ve been having issues coming together and financing it and here is a project we want to put forward and we hope the city will act on it.”

The ATU says in a release that operational savings will allow Winnipeg Transit to pay back the upfront cost on each bus in no less than six years, at an 18 per cent return on investment. Those are based on figures from University of Manitoba engineering professor Dr. Nazim Cicek’s work, which is based on a cost of $850,000 per electric bus, compared to $500,000 for a diesel bus.

Chaudhary says those figures don’t factor in a potential increase of revenue for Manitoba Hydro, which would sell electricity as fuel to Winnipeg Transit.

Earlier this year, a joint city-provincial report recommended Winnipeg Transit replace 12-20 diesel buses in the existing fleet with electric ones.

Chaudhary says their long-term goal is to have more buses and an entirely electric fleet. But with funding levels reduced, he says the best they can do now is hope the province will agree to this loan so they can start that process.

“We’re hoping we can just start taking that step forward,” Chaudhary said.

Wolseley NDP MLA Rob Altmeyer says the province is receiving revenue from the newly implemented carbon tax and is also receiving $66-million from the Federal Government for climate change projects. He believes the loan can come out of that revenue.

Altmeyer adds it’s a win-win for the city and province.

“At a zero interest loan it doesn’t cost the city anything more,” Altmeyer said. “They put the same amount of money into the pot as if they were buying a diesel bus and the province makes up the difference. It doesn’t cost the province anything because that money will be repaid out of the savings by going electric.”

Altmeyer says the city and province have a number of ways of paying for new infrastructure needed for electric buses, such as charging stations.

The province has not commented on the proposal.