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Editorial: Time for federal energy regulators to pony up

It’s time for money to flow to implement the Roadmap.


July 3, 2019
By Patrick Flannery


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Just got off a stakeholder conference call with Natural Resources Canada’s Jamie Hulan, a director in the Equipment Division that is overseeing the Pan-Canadian Framework Roadmap thing. One of his co-chairs, Martin Luymes of the Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute, called for everyone to hold off talking about funding for now. To Hell with that.

 It’s time for the federal government to move beyond vague hints (I won’t even call them promises) that there might be some assistance available to Canadian window and door fabricators to meet the aggressive targets for energy performance set out in NRCan’s Market Transformation Roadmap. At the very first meeting I attended about this at the Fenestration Canada Annual General Meeting in Halifax in 2017, my first question to NRCan’s representative was to ask what assistance governments would be offering to help with the significant R&D and marketing challenges needed to move the industry to minimum 0.8 centre-of-glass U-factors in all products by 2030. The response from then-program-director Debbie Scharf was an acknowledgement that help would be needed but that it would depend on “lobbying” on her part. This is unsurprising – obtaining a slice of the overall budget for any government program is a political process of selling your department’s priorities. Unfortunately for NRCan’s lobbying efforts, assisting fenestration companies attracts a lot fewer votes than the regulations themselves presumably do. That makes landing federal assistance for developing and selling higher-performing products a long shot at best. In the conference call, Hulan pointed to a measly $1 million the program has that has already been earmarked for demonstrating high-efficiency HVAC. No help for window-makers there. Aside from that, there is no established funding for Roadmap implementation at all. To be fair, much of the effort this summer and fall is going to be aimed at setting priorities and figuring out what the initatives might cost, with a view to making concrete budget proposals. But part of the stated effort is canvassing the federal government for programs that have money that might be able to contribute to the cause. Not exactly confidence-inspiring. At present, we’re looking at a situation where the government is going to mandate tighter energy standards and make industry pick up the tab.

Whatever you think about governments giving tax dollars to private companies, it is undeniable that little happens on a big scale in this country without it. Canada would have been far behind the rest of the world  in such areas as electrification, air travel and adoption of the telephone without the Crown corporations that were set up to develop and distribute those technologies. Why? Because our markets couldn’t justify the capital cost for entrepreneurs to get into these industries and take the technology across our vast land, especially to rural areas. We are in a similar situation today. Markets are obviously not generating sufficient demand for high-performing windows and doors, yet officials can see a long-term benefit from getting them installed across the country (saving the planet from climate change). There’s a public interest, and last I checked that’s what public dollars are there for. More Crown corporations (yech) probably aren’t the right answer, but some kind of public investment should be worked out.