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Conservatives axe popular energy-saving program

The Harper government has once again shut down a popular home retrofit program that provides grants to help Canadians offset the cost of making their homes more energy efficient.

When the Conservative initially shelved ecoENERGY last year, industry responded with the Save ecoEnergy Coalition, arguing that the program stimulated private-sector job creation and was an effective way to lower energy use and related greenhouse gas emissions.

Soon after, ahead of the 2011 spring federal election, the government promised to extend the program with an additional $400 million in funding.

Only after the election, and the Conservative's majority win, did the government announce that the program would be limited to 250,000 people.

The program has now reached that limit, and is no longer accepting new registrations. The Globe and Mail reports that officials say less than half of the $400 million has been spent.

Jeff Murdock, vice president of a Vancouver-based energy audit company called Building Insight Technologies, issued a press release about the decision.

"With the Harper government focused on creating jobs and securing Canada's energy future, we are surprised that Minister Oliver closed such a successful program early. . . We are shocked that the federal government is cutting back its investment in job-creating and energy saving retrofits at a time of global economic, environmental and energy uncertainty."

There are still ways that B.C. home owners can get help to green their homes. The provincial LiveSmart grant program runs until the spring of 2013 and pays more than the federal grant did for many retrofits.

The city of Vancouver also recently launched a program that offers homeowner loans for energy efficient upgrades.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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