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HVAC/R association calls Ont. government to create retrofit program

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Mississauga, ON—The Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) is pushing for the Ontario government to create a “Home and Building Retrofit” program to help stimulate the industry after a rough few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their suggestions come as the Ontario government is set to release the 2020-21 budget on Nov. 5.

HRAI recommends that, in partnership with the federal government, the provincial government should invest in a retrofit program to stimulate economic investment, job growth and reduce energy costs. “A program of this type could be leveraged to address concerns about the health and safety of indoor air environments in buildings across Ontario, while reducing energy use and carbon emissions, and it would stimulate economic growth and investment, resulting in a well-paid employment opportunities in all corners of the province,” reports the association in a press release.

It will take the industry time to recover from the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. Investment in multiple sectors needs to occur for the industry to return to normal operating economic levels. HRAI lists some of the benefits that creating a retrofit program might result in lowering energy costs, installing higher-performance heating and cooling systems will benefit everyone from contractors to consumers, workers will benefit from improved comfort and indoor air quality, and job creation for the trades.

The Canada Green Building Council estimates that investment in a Home and Building Retrofit program would lead to $150 billion in GDP  and 1.5 million in direct green building jobs by 2030. HRAI references the shortage of skilled trades professionals in the industry.

“We are asking the provincial government to support making investments that will help overcome these up-front barriers for the benefit of workers, residents, families and the environment,” reports HRAI. “The returns to businesses would be significant over the long-term while creating jobs and reducing emissions in the short-term.” They are hopeful that the provincial government will invest in an incentive program for home and building owners, managers, and businesses to invest in retrofits of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built industries.

Regulatory issues

In addition to a retrofit program, HRAI is recommending the Ontario government to “pro-actively address the regulatory alignment issues agreed to at the Regulatory Cooperation Table under the Canada Free Trade Agreement.” The goal will be to limit the interprovincial barriers to trade and labour.

“The discrepancies between federal and provincial energy efficiency requirements for household appliances result in unnecessary regulatory burden on industry and consumers and increases costs,” said HRAI. “Currently, federal energy efficiency regulations are lower than some provinces and aligned with others. Natural Resources Canada is responsible for administering the Energy Efficiency Act and Regulations to set an enforced minimum energy performance standard for energy-using products such as labelling requirements.”

In addition to energy efficiency, HRAI is suggesting that the Ontario Building Code be aligned with the National Building Code and Energy Efficiency Standards for residential and commercial products in 2020.

HVAC/R business owners are also required to register and renew licenses to operate within municipal territories. HRAI is suggesting that the government eliminate heating contractor licensing at the municipal level as it creates redundant stress for contracting companies.

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