Frustration, confusion over P.E.I. bike rebate program
Reports of at least one retailer accidentally giving rebates before launch
Nearly four months after it was unveiled in the budget, Islanders have no details about P.E.I.'s new bicycle rebate program, which is causing confusion and frustration for retailers and customers.
It's even led to at least one retailer issuing rebates at the checkout before the program has launched.
In the provincial budget, $500,000 was set aside for the $100 rebates, but neither an official start date nor program details have been announced to the public.
"The Department is aware of the confusion that took place last week with some retailers who began offering a bike rebate in store," said officials from the Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action in an email.
"The bike rebate program has not yet launched and we are currently waiting on Treasury Board approval as well as signed participation contracts from these retailers. Until approved by Treasury Board, no discussions can be made on reimbursement."
Brett Doyle, owner of Outer Limit Sports in Charlottetown, said he was not the retailer in question, but he shares in the confusion.
"There's definitely some growing frustration," he said. "You know, some of these customers have been waiting since March when they first heard about this, and some of them have been putting off bike purchases since then."
"On a daily basis we're getting 20 either phone calls or questions in store, 'when is it? when's it rolling out?' and most times we have nothing to tell them," Doyle said.
Retailers raise issues
Some details of the program, like tentative start dates, rebate amounts and possible price thresholds had been shared with retailers in consultation. The program is being rolled out by the department in conjunction with the Summerhill Group, an Ontario-based consultant.
Department minister Steven Myers was not available for an interview Tuesday, but on May 17, Myers told CBC News that the consultant was still working with bike retailers directly to finalize the program details.
He said no contracts had been signed to date, but the government was committed to distributing the rebate at the time of sale, meaning Islanders would have the cost knocked off their total immediately, and retailers would apply for the rebate through the province.
Doyle said the additional hours spent each week liaising and preparing have been difficult for his business, and he expects that to increase when the program actually launches.
"We're like every other business where we have labour shortages, we're short staffed and we just don't have the manpower to have any additional tasks pushed back on us, so that's probably where our frustration lies," he said.
"We're really excited for this program and we think it's great and we're happy to see it, but we just don't have the manpower to do the government's job or the customers' job to do the rebate."
Doyle said an alternative solution would be to have Islanders apply directly to the government for reimbursement.
Greens slam delays
But Official Opposition critic for finance Hannah Bell said the Greens agree with rebating at the point of sale, especially to accommodate low-income Islanders, but remain disappointed in the execution.
"This would have been such a win, you know, for people, for families to be able to go and enjoy being outside together and that's who I see is really suffering from this," she said.
"If you can afford a $1,500 mountain bike, this rebate is not going to make a big difference in whether you choose to buy one or not, but if you want to buy a new bike for your kid, this could have been the difference between you getting that bike or not."
Bell said government should have consulted with retailers in a different way.
"I've heard from some retailers who said it's just so much work, there's so much paperwork involved. They're going to have to carry the cost of that — giving that rebate out — until they can get the money back. And for a small business, that's a lot to ask," she said.
"What government does over and over is they've announced this program and then they've designed it without talking to anybody, so they didn't go and ask any of the retailers how to make this work for them.
"Retailers have systems up and running already, and the idea that you're going to tell them how that's going to work without having asked them for their input is really disrespectful," she said.
We think it's great and we're happy to see it, but we just don't have the manpower to do the government's job or the customers' job to do the rebate— Brett Doyle
Myers said he is committed to launching the program before the start of summer.
"At that point, we will definitely have a program running, but I hope to have it up and running much quicker than that, but we have to do this the right way," he told CBC News in May.
"We have to be cautious that we're not going to leave anybody behind, and that's why we are negotiating the way that we are.
"At the end of the day, I believe Islanders are going to be happy with it."