The Conservation Council of New Brunswick is joining social justice groups in strongly condemning the Higgs government’s decision to end a program that helped low-income New Brunswickers pay for home heating and electricity.
The Home Energy Assistance Plan launched in 2016 and provided low-income New Brunswickers with a $100 rebate to help offset the cost of power in their dwelling.
This month, CBC New Brunswick reported that the Higgs government did not renew the program.
“We are extremely disappointed and confused that the government would end this program now,” says Louise Comeau, Director of the Conservation Council’s Climate Change and Energy Solutions program. “Helping New Brunswickers, and particularly low-income citizens, pay less for power and use less energy are crucial pieces as we shift to a non-polluting, sustainable electricity system.”
New Brunswickers are struggling with rising costs on all fronts—from paying for power, covering rising rent payments, keeping fuel in vehicles to putting food on the table.
“We should not be taking away energy rebates but rather expanding on them or any kind of assistance that helps people pay their power bills. We know that people across this province are making tough choices and living in cold, unhealthy conditions because they can’t afford to turn up the heat,” says Tracy Glynn, of the NB Coalition for Tenants Rights.
With the provincial program gone, there is little support for renters and people who do not qualify for the federal government’s Canada Housing Benefit. Other options currently available apply only to families and low-income citizens who own their homes.
“By quietly canceling the Home Energy Assistance Program, the Higgs government is leaving tens of thousands of New Brunswickers in the dark – in some cases literally,” says Abram Lutes, Provincial Coordinator for the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice.
“The Canada-New Brunswick Housing Benefit does not fill all the gaps left by canceling the previous energy assistance, and without rent control will act as yet another subsidy for landlords. People in poverty need immediate action from this government to support them through the harsh winter months through direct income assistance, regulating rents, and building quality, robust social housing.”
Comeau says ensuring access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable power is crucial to a just transition away from fossil fuels. She says we need to improve the energy efficiency of the housing stock in New Brunswick so ratepayers don’t have to use as much energy and save money on their home heating and electricity bills.