Retrofit program loss stuns homeowners
Funding exhausted two months early, government says
The abrupt cancellation of the federal government's popular energy retrofit program has stunned homeowners who thought they still had two months to take advantage of the incentive.
In a news release issued on Sunday, the Conservative government cancelled the ecoEnergy program, which provided grants of up to $5,000 to replace windows, insulation and furnaces.
The government said it closed down the program two months ahead of schedule because it had reached its limit of 250,000 applicants.
For people like Lou DiCarlo, the announcement shelved his plan to replace the windows in his Brampton, Ont., home.
"I was going to do the whole house — all the windows, nine windows," he told CBC News. "That's a good $8,000 to $10,000 worth of work in the end. I thought with the incentives I could get a little bit of a break."
The government announcement "stopped me in my tracks," he said. "Once I heard that, I figured I would wait and see what happens."
Not surprisingly, the decision drew fire from opposition parties in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
"This isn't a capping," the NDP's Claude Gravelle charged. "This is a knee-capping of our homeowners, our construction industry and dismisses a commitment to energy efficient building."
However, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said funding was clearly spelled out when the program was launched in 2007 and extended last year.
"Homeowners participating will see significant savings on their energy bills, while providing jobs right across this country," the minister said. "With this program fully subscribed we expect to approach our budget limit of $400 million.
"While the opposition voted against this important initiative," Oliver added, "our government remains proud of its success."
Lyle Shipley, executive director of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council, which advocates for more green industry designs and standards, said the benefits of such incentives far outweigh the amount the government spent.
"There's a difference between short-sighted thinking and long-sighted thinking," he said, "and making good sustainability decisions is long-sighted thinking."
Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada said letting the program die is symbolic of what he termed the Conservative government's priorities: Energy is for export, not for saving.
"This is a program that helps just everyday Canadians reduce their energy bills and help fight climate change," he said. "But apparently we don't have money to help regular people reduce their energy costs. But we do have $1.3 billion every year to give to the oil industry in subsidies."
Homeowners already in the program must complete their renovations in the next two months to qualify for a rebate.