Question Period: Home Insulation Program Cuts

This is the preliminary Hansard transcript of the Question Period, recorded in the language it was originally spoken.

Mr. Coon: We have entered that strange and somewhat ominous land called the new fiscal year. Last year, when the government eliminated Efficiency NB and transferred responsibility for energy efficiency programs to NB Power, I asked the Minister of Energy and Mines whether New Brunswickers who heat their homes with oil, propane, wood, or natural gas would continue to qualify for help insulating their homes. He assured me that NB Power’s home insulation program would not discriminate against New Brunswickers who do not heat with electricity. Can the minister confirm that, as of May 1, NB Power will continue to help families save on their heating bills only if they heat with electricity?

Hon. Mr. Arseneault: I am very proud of our government, which has reinvested in home energy efficiency programs at a time when . . . I remember that, back in 2014, the former Tory government slashed a whole program for home renovations. It was our government that brought it back. Yes, we did transfer the responsibilities of Efficiency NB to NB Power. So far, we have invested more in energy efficiency over the past five years. We did that as a Liberal government, in cooperation with NB Power. Let’s take the heat pump program. Not only did we have an objective of 1 500 heat pumps to help families all across New Brunswick, but also we more than quadrupled that objective. We did not stop that program when we reached our objective. We let it go. Today, over 5 000 families and homes around New Brunswick are benefiting from energy efficiency programs.

M. Coon : Tous les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick recherchent des façons de réduire les frais de chauffage et ils veulent tous faire leur part dans le combat contre les changements climatiques. Tout le monde sait que, en améliorant l’efficacité énergétique de notre maison, nous faisons d’une pierre deux coups et nous créons des emplois. Alors, comment le ministre compte-t-il s’assurer que tous les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick reçoivent le même coup de main pour réduire leurs frais de chauffage s’ils ne chauffent pas leur maison à l’électricité?

L’hon. M. Arseneault : J’apprécie la question de l’opposition. Comme je l’ai dit tout à l’heure, depuis qu’Énergie NB a la responsabilité d’offrir des programmes d’efficacité énergétique, nous avons vu une augmentation du nombre de ces derniers. Nous avons ramené un programme qui avait été totalement éliminé par l’ancien gouvernement conservateur. Nous avons ramené le programme de rénovation qui existait à l’époque d’Efficacité NB. Nous avons également créé un nouveau programme pour les thermopompes. Il y a aussi un programme d’isolation pour nos maisons. Ce sont toutes des choses qui feront en sorte d’aider les familles à réduire leur consommation d’énergie. En bout de ligne, cela permettra de réduire la facture d’électricité, et c’est ce que nous recherchons pour les familles du Nouveau-Brunswick.

Mr. Coon: We know that energy efficiency is the quickest and cleanest way to create jobs and strengthen our economy while cutting carbon pollution. Yet, families who now heat their homes with carbon-based fuels will no longer be eligible for help from NB Power to cut their fuel use as of May 1. We need ideas now to solve this problem quickly. My Green Jobs Act, which will come up for second reading this week, suggests a stand-alone
agency called Renew New Brunswick, which would not discriminate among New Brunswick families and businesses who are trying to save money on their energy costs, whether they heat with oil, propane, natural gas, wood, or electricity. Does the minister support the establishment of a stand-alone agency with a mandate to help all New Brunswickers become more energy efficient without discriminating against them, based on the fuel that they use to heat their homes?

Hon. Mr. Arseneault: I appreciate the member opposite’s continuing to push his Green Jobs Act. One thing that I would recommend to him is to stop thinking that we are not actually creating some green jobs in New Brunswick. We are doing that. Not that long ago—a couple of weeks ago—I was in Saint-Quentin with Groupe Savoie, which has tremendous value-added forest products. It takes the biomass from the forest floor and creates pellets. Actually, it has the first pellet delivery truck in the country. It actually delivers pellets to families and institutions across northern New Brunswick and various parts of the province. Those are green jobs. People in the forest and people in the plant are doing that. In Belledune, we have Shaw, which is creating jobs with biomass by creating pellets. There are stories all around the province. We have windmills in our province. We have all sorts of green
types of jobs. The member opposite continues to stand up and pretend that New Brunswick is not doing its fair share when it comes to creating green jobs, but he is totally wrong. I would love to take him on a tour of New Brunswick to show him just that.

Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.