Trudeau promises $40K interest-free loans to make homes energy efficient and safer from severe weather

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is promising Canadians access to interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to upgrade old furnaces, replace leaky windows or retrofit their homes to make them more energy-efficient and resilient to floods and wildfires caused by climate change.

Liberals offer retrofit program to assist 1.5 million homes with upgrades

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says a re-elected Liberal government would offer Canadians an interest-free loan of up to $40,000 to make their homes more energy efficient and resistant to climate change. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is promising Canadians access to interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to upgrade old furnaces, replace leaky windows or retrofit their homes to make them more energy-efficient and resilient to floods and wildfires caused by climate change.

Trudeau is in Delta, B.C. today to make his party's second climate change action plan announcement of the week — a promise to introduce a new program to cut energy bills and fortify homes if he's re-elected.

The Liberal Party says the program would offer a free energy audit and would help to retrofit about 1.5 million homes.

Homeowners and landlords would be eligible for an interest-free loan of up to $40,000 for eligible green-friendly renovations — such as high efficiency doors or windows, rooftop solar panels, basement flood-proofing or insulation.

Under the Liberal plan, the loan would be paid back over 10 years through a Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation insured mortgage, a bank loan or in partnership with a utility company through savings on monthly bills.

Canadians who took out such a loan could receive a cash incentive of between $250 and $750 based on how much energy waste they reduce.

Canadians who buy new homes that are certified as zero-emissions would also be given a Net Zero Homes Grant of up to $5,000.

The Liberals also say they would invest $100 million in skills training to make sure there are enough qualified workers to handle the energy audits, retrofits and net-zero home construction.

"It's a win-win-win," Trudeau said.

Trudeau said Canada has an obligation as a society to help those living in flood zones, who will face increasingly difficult decisions about whether to rebuild or relocate.

"This is a conversation we know is only going to become more difficult and more acute for more people over the coming years with the very real impacts of climate change," he said.

"Our commitment today is that we will be there with people, supporting them through these difficult moments in their lives as we fight climate change."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, used a campaign event in Quebec this morning to highlight his party's promise of a 20 per cent refundable tax credit that could be claimed by anyone who spends between $1,000 and $20,000 on energy-saving home renovations.

The Conservatives say the $900 million measure, first announced by the party in June, would allow Canadians to save
up to $3,800 on renovations every year. The tax measure is part of the Conservative Party's overall climate plan, which includes a vow to repeal the Liberal government's carbon tax.

Insurance and relocation supports 

The Liberals are also promising to:

  • Create a low-cost national flood insurance program to help homeowners in high-risk flood zones who don't have adequate insurance protection. According to the Liberal Party, claims in Canada related to severe weather are four times higher now than in 2008, averaging $1.8 billion a year in the last decade.
  • Work with provinces and territories to complete flood maps so Canadians understand the risks of buying home in risky areas. Liberals are offering a $150 million investment for that initiative over the next three years.
  • Develop a national action plan to help homeowners at highest risk of repeat flooding with potential relocation.
  • Work with stakeholders and experts to design an Employment Insurance Disaster Assistance Benefit to help people whose jobs and livelihoods are negatively affected by disaster.

According to the Liberal Party, the gross cost of the measures would be about $370 million in 2020-21, increasing to $432 million in 2023-24. Costs associated with retrofits and the Net Zero Home Grant would be financed through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation by drawing down on the Crown corporation's shareholder equity.

Costs for training and flood mapping would be paid out of the government's general revenues, costing an estimated $70 million net in 2020-21, decreasing to $20 million by 2023-24, according to the party.

The Liberal Party has not yet released any independent costing analysis of its campaign promises from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), as the Conservatives and NDP have done. The party repeatedly has said that further costing will be announced "over the course of the campaign." Earlier today, the Green Party released its fully costed platform with analysis from the PBO.

A couple surveys floodwaters from behind a row of sandbags on the street in an east end community of Ottawa, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Today's announcement is the second in what's expected to be a series of Liberal platform promises related to action on climate change.

On Tuesday, Trudeau announced that a re-elected Liberal government would halve the corporate tax rate for companies that develop or manufacture products with zero emissions — part of the party's plan to move to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Net-zero emissions plan

Eligible sectors could include manufacturing related to renewable energy, production of renewable fuels, zero emission vehicles and batteries for them, carbon capture and removal technology and electric vehicle charging systems.

It's part of the Liberal promise to push Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050. The European Union and other countries made the same climate pledge at the United Nations in New York City this week.

The Liberal Party's plan is to set legally-binding, five-year milestones to reach net-zero emissions in 30 years. The party says the net-zero plan would be based on the advice of scientists, economists and other experts, as well as consultations with Canadians.

Net-zero means some sectors could still emit carbon pollution, but those emissions would be offset by other actions such as planting trees.

With files from the Canadian Press

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