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B.C. residents could get up to $19,000 in heat pump rebates

Federal and provincial ministers announce new program Monday

Depending on where they live, British Columbians can receive rebates of up to $19,000 toward installing heat pumps under a joint federal-provincial initiative.

Up to $255 million with B.C.’s share being up to $151 million will go toward helping low and middle-income households help replace oil, propane or natural gas systems with heat pumps. The rebates and the funding arrangements behind them mirror heat pump rebates as part of a pilot project announced in late October 2023 and first rolled out in Atlantic Canada, with B.C. initially left out in the cold.

The substance as well the timing of that announcement drew criticism from provincial cabinet minister including Premier David Eby, who showed his disappointment by wearing a “I Heart Heat Pumps” T-shirt in media appearances.

“I think at a minimum, fairness demands equal treatment of British Columbians,” he said in late October. “People struggling with affordability around home heating face the same struggles in B.C. as in Nova Scotia, it’s not a distinct or different struggle.”

Ottawa needs to work with B.C., Eby added.

“We’ve been, frankly, lobbying them for months to get this kind of recognition,” he said. “So my expectation is that they will meet us in delivering that program for British Columbians just like they do Nova Scotians.”

The moment appeared to have come Monday as Steven Guilbeault, federal environment minister, and Jonathan Wilkinson, federal energy minister, joined George Heyman, B.C.’s environment minister, and Josie Osborne, B.C.’s energy minister, to announce the rebates.

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Eligible British Columbians could receive rebates of up $16,000, with those living in northern B.C. eligible for another $3,000 if they qualify.

Wilkinson said British Columbians are treated the same on a per-capita basis as residents of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“This is not a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease,” Wilkinson said. “We have made it clear that we were interested in working with all provinces and territories to develop plans to address the oil-to-heat-pump-issue and put in place agreements under the Low Carbon Economy Fund, which is under the purview of my colleague Minister Guilbeault,” he said. He added other agreements could be forthcoming.

“The announcement today is actually broader than what we have announced with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland,” Wilkinson said. It also allows people using propane or natural gas systems — rather than just heating oil — to switch, Wilkinson added.

“The issue of oil-to-heat-pumps was actually not a political decision,” Wilkinson said, when asked if today’s announcement was about shoring up federal Liberal support in urban British Columbia. “It was a decision to actually try to help folks, who were paying three to four times the cost of natural gas,” Wilkinson said.

He added that the program is open to all provinces and territories.

“It’s up to provincial governments to take advantage of that,” he said. “So yes, I’m very pleased that (B.C.) is taking advantage of it, because I’m very pleased that people are going to be saving money on their energy bills and I’m very pleased that people are going to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”

Heyman linked Monday’s announcement to other agreements with Ottawa advancing common goals.

“It assists British Columbians with affordability as well as with…heating costs.”