Small business to get rebates for some of the cost of energy efficiency projects

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OTTAWA — The federal government’s plan to ease the carbon price burden on small business will include rebate payments to cover some of the cost of making energy efficient upgrades.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna — who kicked off a month-long carbon price tour at a Canadian Tire store in her Ottawa Centre riding Monday morning — said the final details of the plan are being worked out in consultation with business associations.

She said she has told her department the plan should provide incentives for business to invest in energy-efficient projects.

“I want it to be a program that isn’t highly bureaucratic, where you can make investments and get the money back right away,” she said.

An official confirmed afterwards the plan will include rebate payments.

The federal carbon price of $20 per tonne will start being charged April 1 on fossil fuel inputs in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick — the four provinces without an equivalent provincial carbon price.

The price goes up by $10 each year until it hits $50 a tonne in 2022, when the Liberals, should they be re-elected in the fall, have promised to review the program to determine where the price goes after that.

The Liberals expect to bring in about $2.3 billion over the next 12 months in the four provinces having the levy imposed on them, and McKenna says every cent will be returned to the provinces where it was raised.

About ninety per cent will go to individuals when they file their income taxes in the coming weeks.

The remaining 10 per cent is earmarked for small businesses, municipalities, hospitals, universities and Indigenous communities to cover what they can’t pass on to consumers through higher prices.

The government expects to provide at least $1.46 billion over five years to small and medium-sized businesses, including $155 million in the fiscal year starting April 1. Hospitals, municipalities and other community organizations will share at least $727 million over five years, starting with $73 million in 2019-2020 fiscal year.

The Liberals are hoping to lure some of the attention off the ongoing SNC-Lavalin saga and back onto climate change, an issue they would much rather be the ballot box question in the upcoming election.

McKenna will spend most of March promoting the climate incentive payments for individuals, which range from $128 to $305 for a single adult, and $256 to $609 for a family of four. The payments vary by province based on different sources of energy, with Saskatchewan families paying more in the carbon price largely because they get most of their electricity from coal.

The first day of the tour hit a small hitch when a snowstorm in Prince Edward Island delayed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s flight and cancelled a visit with a family in Mississauga, Ont., to showcase the payments.

A climate action rally is still scheduled Monday night in Toronto with Trudeau and McKenna.

The Liberals are also launching a series of radio ads on the carbon price and rebates in the four affected provinces this week.

“Climate change is a real and serious problem,” Trudeau says in the ads.

“We have a strong plan to fight it, one that leading scientists and economists support. It makes polluters pay and gives the money back to people.”

Liberal party spokesman Braeden Caley says the rally and the radio ads have been planned for months — long before the SNC-Lavalin affair engulfed Trudeau’s government this month with allegations of political interference in the justice system.

Mia Rabson and Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press