With sun-soaked greenery as his backdrop, Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion promised homeowners $575 million worth of incentives to make their dwellings more energy efficient if his party is elected in the Oct. 14 federal election.


Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion announces that if elected, his party would expand federal subsidies for making homes more energy efficient during a campaign stop in Burnaby, B.C. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

"The average Canadian homeowner can reduce the amount of energy their home uses by 20 to 40 per cent," Dion said outside a housing co-operative in Burnaby, B.C., during a campaign visit Friday.

Under the four-year proposal, the Liberals would offer homeowners $10,000 in financial support for investing in energy-saving measures such as insulation, weatherproofing and more efficient heating systems.

Up to $10,000 would also be available to homeowners as an interest-free "green mortgage loan" to help with up-front costs and major retrofits.

A $140-million fund would be created to help upgrade low-income housing.

"We have a plan to help people to adapt, to help especially middle- and low-income Canadians," Dion said.

Aims to retrofit all homes by 2030

Dion warned that energy costs seem likely to remain high and Canada needs to think of long-term solutions.

"This is the world in which we are," he said. "It is why the countries that have decided to do a green shift in the '90s are more energy efficient and are resisting better to these kinds of difficulties."

With the investments, the Liberals hope to retrofit 50 per cent of all Canadian homes by 2020 and all homes by 2030.

Also, Dion vowed to beef up Canada's building code standards for energy efficiency and set tough new standards for home appliances.

The Liberals said the proposal would help Canadians combat rising energy bills and create jobs in a faltering economy.

Dion made his pitch in Burnaby, one of the areas in B.C. where Liberals hope to pilfer seats from the New Democrats. Liberals hold seven of the 36 seats in B.C.

The NDP has denounced the Liberal's Green Shift plan to tax carbon emissions while cutting income taxes.

Green Shift an 'unfair double hit' for B.C.?

Dion plan faces a tough sell to voters in B.C. who are already contending with a provincial carbon tax that kicked in on July 1 and added 2.3 cents to the price of a litre of gasoline.

At an overcrowded town hall meeting later Friday, the so-called Green Shift program took centre stage.

"Aren't we going to take an unfair double hit?" asked one concerned resident.

Dion responded that he would seek to find a solution, noting that he served as intergovernmental affairs minister for eight years and knows how to negotiate with provinces.

British Columbia is seen as one of the key battlegrounds for determining Liberal fortunes in the election.

The Liberals won nine of B.C.'s 36 seats in the 2006 election, but now hold seven of the ridings

David Emerson crossed the floor to join the Conservatives shortly after he was elected in the Vancouver Kingsway riding. He is not running in the 2008 race.

Blair Wilson was also elected as a Liberal but then quit to become an Independent last year and shortly before the election call, chose to sit as Canada's first federal Green MP.

The Conservatives hold 18 seats in B.C. and the NDP have 10.

With files from the Canadian Press