As CBC is reporting, some homeowners are "stunned" by the abrupt cancellation to the energy retrofit program. The larger surprise, however, may be learning that Canada now has first-come, first-served governance. It's like a concert -- without the music or the crowds or the glowsticks.
Here was Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver in the Commons yesterday, explaining why the program was shut down early.
Mr. Speaker, the eco-energy retrofit program reached its goal of 250,000 registered homeowners. Participating homeowners will see significant savings on their energy bills. The program also provides jobs right across this country. With this program fully subscribed, we expect to approach our budget limit of $400 million.
I'm not sure I can think of another government program that works this way. Are there parents in Canada who can't get the $100 cheques because the program is "fully subscribed?" Nor do I think the government advertised this program as first-come, first-served when it extended the deadline.
This all feels vaguely offside. Revenue Canada, after all, allows taxpayers 10 years to amend their returns, in case there are credits or writeoffs that tax-filers may have missed.
In the private sector, which this government often points out as an example, I think this retroactive date-changing would provoke some blowback from customers.
Even first-come, first-served has its limits too. We've all seen the fine print on those advertising flyers -- merchants have to give notice to customers if "supplies are limited" on sales items, don't they? And we've all stood in lines in drugstores or department stores, seeing people holding those flyers, arguing for the lower price -- and usually getting it, either through rain checks or equivalent merchandise.
That's because these stores worry about customer loyalty and goodwill -- apparently not an issue for government.
Don't get me wrong. It's perfectly normal for governments to limit the scope of benefits, either through qualifying criteria or deadlines. I think this is an unusual, and strange way of limiting spending, though, and I'd be curious to know if there are other examples. If it works (and why wouldn't it? This government has a majority), I wonder if we'll see future examples -- i.e, sorry, we have enough people signed up for the subsidy on sports equipment and music lessons.
When the budget comes, just like with those advertising flyers, we'd be advised to read the fine print.