Alberta ends natural gas rebate program
The province is ending its natural gas rebate program, Alberta Energy Minister Mel Knight announced in the legislature Thursday.
"There hasn't been a rebate in two months running because natural gas prices have been so low," he said.
"That's good for consumers. However, it's tough on the province's bottom line. In the future, we will take a look at the program or an alternate form of the program if the natural gas prices significantly recover."
Albertans have received more than $1.9 billion in rebates since the program was launched in 2003.
The rebate is triggered when the price hits $5.50 per gigajoule between October and March.
For example, a refund of $1.50/gigajoule is given when the price is between $5.50/gigajoule and $7.50/gigajoule.
The government estimated homeowners saved an average of $35 on their January natural gas bills thanks to the rebate.
Natural gas rebates were not given in February and March due to low prices.
Opposition members had mixed reaction to Knight's announcement.
'We were subsidizing waste': Liberal leader
Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann said he's happy to see the program end as long as the government makes sure the most vulnerable people are protected.
"We were subsidizing waste," he said. "Not everyone is being wasteful but it's delaying the time when people would put in energy retrofits, reduce their consumption so that they saved money."
But the program served an important role for people on fixed incomes, Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said.
"This is an energy program to help people cope with sky-high energy prices," Mason said.
"Prices are not sky-high right now but they probably will be again within a year or two and then those people will have no protection whatsoever."
The province could introduce another rebate program in the future if natural gas prices go up again, Knight said, but any new program likely won't be as wide-reaching as the last one.