Schools scramble as energy reno cash cut off – The London Free Press
Homeowners aren’t the only ones losing out as Ontario scraps its cap-and-trade program and with it funding for energy-efficient renovations.
Ontario school boards, already facing a $15-billion backlog for needed repairs, are losing access to a $100-million fund financed by some of the money the province took in under the cap-and-trade program that Premier Doug Ford’s new Progressive Conservative government has moved to end.
In Southwestern Ontario, home to more than a dozen school systems, including one of the province’s largest, London-based Thames Valley, many boards will escape the brunt of the fallout this year, since they’d already contracted out or completed projects covered by the fund by a July 3 cut-off date.
But others now face forging ahead and trying to find the money elsewhere for planned projects and future ones not yet on the books.
“What (this fund’s cancellation) means is, because we have a multi-year list — arguably, a three- to five-year list — of work that has to get done, it gets done faster or slower depending on the available funding,” said Janet Baird-Jackson, the Avon Maitland District school board’s superintendent of corporate services.
One big hit will be at the Thames Valley District school board, which will have to return about $750,000 of the $4.7 million the province allocated it. The unspent money had been earmarked for upgrades to building automation systems in the board’s administrative offices.
The Avon Maitland board was allocated $832,360 for projects at Goderich Collegiate Institute and Central Huron secondary school in Clinton, both of which were already contracted out and the work going ahead.
Rooftop heating and air-conditioning units are being replaced at the Goderich school, along with upgrades to its automation systems. In Clinton, the money is being used to start a boiler replacement program and for other upgrades.
Money for two projects planned, but not yet contracted out, by the Huron-Perth Catholic District school board will be lost, including the replacement of an air exchange unit at Precious Blood Catholic school in Exeter and outside lighting improvements at St. Joseph Catholic school in Stratford.
“These are two projects that we will continue to move forward with. We’ll just have to fund them through a different budget line,” said Gary O’Donnell, the board’s superintendent of education.
Under the former Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program, a move to fight climate change from greenhouse gases with carbon pricing, industries were limited how much they could pollute but could buy credits to exceed those emission caps.
Nearly $2 billion was collected from that system last year, which funded several energy-saving renovation programs — all now unplugged, with no details what might replace them.
They include programs tapped by school boards, hospitals and homeonwers, who could get rebates for improvements such as energy-efficient windows.
The London District Catholic school board received more than $500,000 for lighting upgrades at seven schools, which will be covered but the program cancellation leaves doubt about future projects, an official said.
“We have other energy-efficient projects we were looking at doing in future years, and we are hopeful that there will be a replacement program to improve the efficiency of our schools,” said Jacquie Davison, the board’s business superintendent.
Education Minister Lisa Thompson said the government has committed $1.4 billion for school renovations and repairs, and ending “Kathleen Wynne’s cap-and-trade carbon tax and slush fund” will put $285 into the pocket of the average Ontarian and help to reduce gas prices by 10 cents a litre.
“All of the programs that were paid for through cap and trade are being reviewed and we will be making decisions on a case-by-case basis on which programs need to be kept,” Thompson, the Huron-Bruce MPP, wrote in an emailed statement.
WHAT OTHERS SAID
“Ultimately, we will have to delay projects.”
— Brian McKay, business superintendent, Lambton-Kent District school board, which was allocated about $1.6 million for work at many of its 63 schools.
“I think it important that the government proceed with efforts to identify alternative sources of funding to support boards in attending to these timely projects.”
— Beverley Eckensweiler, president, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association
-With files by Shalu Mehta, The London Free Press, and Fallon Hewitt, Chatham Daily News