The government's decision to suspend a federal program that offered homeowners financial incentives to make their houses more energy efficient has drawn fire from the opposition and consumers.


Former minister of natural resources Lisa Raitt, left, assists with a home evaluation in this 2009 photo. ((Natural Resources Canada))

"In a desperate attempt to free up money that would allow them to cover up their waste, the Conservatives are cutting the best environmental program we've got," Liberal MP David McGuinty said in question period Thursday.

Launched in 2007, the ecoEnergy program encouraged homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient by getting energy audits done and making the appropriate retrofits. Up to $5,000 in rebates was available in some cases.

The program was due to expire in March 2011, but at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the Department of Natural Resources issued a press release saying no new applicants for the rebates would be accepted after midnight Wednesday.

"The program will continue to be administered until March 31, 2011," the release said.

Homeowners can still qualify for a rebate if they have done the first audit but have yet to complete the retrofits.

"If you have already booked an appointment for a pre-retrofit evaluation, have completed an evaluation or applied for re-entry to the program, you remain eligible to apply for a grant," the release said.

Homeowners who haven't booked an audit won't be eligible for the rebate.

As recently as in the March 4 budget, Ottawa was promoting the program, earmarking more funds for it.

"Due to unprecedented demand under the ecoENERGY Retrofit — Homes program, the government is allocating a further $80-million to support additional retrofits by Canadian homeowners," the budget said.

The lack of warning in shutting down the program rankled the opposition.

"Today — Day 1 of the budget year — we learn the government is set to pull the plug on billions of dollars of job creation and savings," NDP MP Linda Duncan said in question period on Thursday.

"The result? Higher energy costs, increased pollution and greenhouse gases but nothing for homeowners."

The program has proved to be more popular than initial estimates predicted, with three times the amount of money going into the program thus far than was initially proposed.

Several provinces offer similar incentives to homeowners as the federal program. The Department of Natural Resources website has a list of some of these programs.