EDMONTON — Alberta is closing the door on an agency that championed eco-initiatives but was ridiculed by Premier Jason Kenney as a costly conduit for “shower heads and light bulbs.”
Grant Hunter, associate minister in charge of red tape reduction, says the remaining duties and responsibilities of Energy Efficiency Alberta — and its $8-million budget — will be folded into other departments or the current Emissions Reduction Alberta.
“None of the programs that are currently there will be taken away,” Hunter said in an interview Thursday.
“(But) we don’t need to have two agencies doing the same thing.”
Emissions Reduction Alberta, established in 2007, is an arm’s-length agency that uses greenhouse gas levies paid by large emitters to invest in projects to reduce greenhouse gases.
“Our government has always maintained that we must leverage our industry partners and small- and medium-sized businesses in order to tackle emissions,” Environment Minister Jason Nixon said in a statement.
“We have also committed to streamlining government delivery of services and cutting red tape. By rolling (the two agencies together), we are accomplishing all of the above.”
Energy Efficiency Alberta was launched in 2017 by the former NDP government. It was the centrepiece of a broader commitment to move Alberta toward a greener economy.
The agency used money from a carbon tax brought in by the NDP on gasoline and heating fuels to fund initiatives and rebates on everything from solar panels to energy-efficient appliances, windows, insulation, LED light bulbs and low-flow shower heads.
Kenney, in the 2019 election campaign won by the United Conservatives, promised to end the provincial carbon tax. He followed through, but it was replaced with a federal one.
He also promised to end Energy Efficiency Alberta, which he suggested epitomized an NDP government committed to raising taxes in the service of a bloated bureaucracy administering projects best left to the free market.
“We don’t need bureaucrats changing our shower heads and our light bulbs,” Kenney said in March 2019.
Kenney’s government cancelled Energy Efficiency Alberta’s rebate programs last fall while continuing with lesser-known programs such as the Green Loan Guarantee, which supports lenders offering cash to support renewable energy projects.
The agency has estimated its programs were not a drain on the economy but rather a propellant, delivering $850 million in economic growth and returning $3.20 for every $1 invested.
The agency shutdown is part of an omnibus bill introduced in the house by Hunter. Among other changes, it proposes an end to cabinet approval of oilsands projects.
Those projects currently are accepted or rejected by the Alberta Energy Regulator and then go to cabinet for confirmation.
Officials said the double approval isn’t needed, because the cabinet does not interfere in the regulator’s decisions. Hunter said it also needlessly delayed the approvals, sometimes by up to 10 months.
Hunter has been on the job for more than a year and has been tasked with reducing by one-third rules and regulations deemed duplicative or an unnecessary hindrance.
He said his department estimates there are 702,000 government-wide statutes, regulations, forms and policies, and that, to date, that’s been reduced by about five per cent.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press