Hitting the Brakes on Canada’s Retrofit Program

first_imgWe’ve grown accustomed to complaining about the slow pace of implementation of government programs, but every now and then civic leaders address with lightning speed what they see as program successes and failures.Quick action, though, doesn’t necessarily mean folks still can’t complain.Take, for example, the Canadian government’s decision last week to end, on a few hours’ notice, bookings for the home-energy audits that the federal agency Natural Resources Canada requires before homeowners can participate in its ecoEnergy Retrofit-Homes Program, which provides grants of up to $5,000 ($4,990 U.S.) for homeowners who make energy efficiency improvements to their properties. The rest of the program remains intact: those who managed to book an audit before the deadline, and those whose homes have already had pre-retrofit audits, have until March 31, 2011, to make the improvements and have their home audited a second time to confirm that the work was done correctly.Canada’s Conservative government announced that pre-retrofit audit bookings would end at midnight on Wednesday, March 31. But it was the timing of the announcement – at 5 p.m. Wednesday, seven hours before the decision was to take effect – that drew criticism from political opponents, homeowners, and companies that specialize in retrofit work.Feeling ambushed“They are saying they are not killing it since it still technically goes until March, 2011,” one member of the Parliament of Canada, Liberal MP David McGuinty, told the Toronto Globe and Mail. “But if you haven’t got your energy audit done by tonight at midnight, you are out of luck. There is no rebate for you. It’s a completely arbitrary date. We have never heard this date before.”The move was especially puzzling to many because, the paper noted, Canada’s federal budget promoted the program as recently as March 4, when the budget was officially released. “Due to unprecedented demand under the ecoEnergy Retrofit–Homes program, the Government is allocating a further $80-million to support additional retrofits by Canadian homeowners,” the budget documents said.Most Globe and Mail readers who commented on the story expressed disappointment in the quick cutoff. “This has got to be the sneakiest government I have ever seen in this country. Obviously (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper doesn’t believe in climate change and this is just another one of his ways to make sure nothing is done about it,” wrote one. “Turning off the lights on this program is a shame. There should be six months notice of cancellation. They cannot be serious about this,” wrote another.Audit and retrofit companies also were among those perplexed by the sudden end to audit bookings, CBC News reported.Stephen Farrell, owner of Calgary-based Verdatech Energy Management and Consulting, told the CBC that his company had been doing audits all over Alberta province but will now have to lay off about 25 of the 40 people who work for him.“This was funded by stimulus spending, which is about creating jobs. We did that, and now, we’re having to take away those jobs,” Farrell said. Added Nick Weran, owner of Edmonton-based City Furnace Replacement: “I’m sure that it will slow down business … I know some people who have been waiting to get the audits done. Hopefully, they had them booked.”last_img

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