By Rosemary Westwood - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
John Diefenbaker’s house needs some fixing, but paying for repairs isn’t cheap
John Diefenbaker’s house has a crack in its foundation. The sunroom paint is peeling away, while the house itself lists northward. For the Prince Albert Historical Society, which maintains the home where Canada’s 13th prime minister lived from 1947 to 1975, that means a grant-writing marathon in the hopes the Saskatchewan or federal governments will cough up some of the estimated $400,000 needed to keep a piece of Canadian history in good repair. The society shouldn’t hold its breath, though. “It’s a very negative period” for heritage funding in Canada, says Christina Cameron, the former head of national historic sites at Parks Canada and now a professor at the Université de Montréal’s school of architecture. The high value that Canadian politicians profess to put on our history, she says, “doesn’t seem to translate into money.”
Dief’s old digs are far from the only historic site in need of TLC. Last summer reports revealed the dilapidated state of graves belonging to several former prime ministers, including deteriorating marble on Sir John A. Macdonald’s family plot and rust on Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s grave. Parks Canada, tasked with maintaining prime ministerial resting places and 167 other historic sites, saw its budget slashed by $29 million. For now, the city of Prince Albert, which owns the Diefenbaker home, is chipping in for the repairs. So too is a non-profit architecture society. The non-profit model has worked well in the U.S., where despite the American obsession with all things George Washington, donations and ticket sales—not tax dollars—provide upkeep for his estate and grave. A solution perhaps, to straighten up the Chief’s old house.
By Julia Belluz - Monday, April 4, 2011 at 9:37 AM - 7 Comments
Do energy rebates help the environment or fund home makeovers that would have happened anyway?
When the federal EcoEnergy retrofit initiative was cancelled on March 31 of last year, the Toronto Environment Office had already been working for several months on designing a home energy retrofit program for low-income owners and renters. Lawson Oates, director of the environment office, says his team expected to piggyback on federal and provincial incentives to offset costs for the program. In particular, they were motivated by EcoEnergy, which had been launched by the Conservatives in April 2007, offering grants of up to $5,000 per home to carry out energy saving improvements and hopefully reduce carbon footprints. But by 2010, after spending $91 million on 85,000 home renovations, the federal government announced the program had been too popular and suspended it a year ahead of schedule. This left the city of Toronto’s scheme in shambles, and short nearly $50,000.
Bureaucratic foul-ups may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to troubles with energy rebate programs. With EcoEnergy poised for a revival—an extra $400 million was allocated for the initiative in the Conservatives’ now-defunct 2011 budget—experts across the board are questioning whether the subsidies are any use at all, or simply free money for renovation projects people would do anyway. Still others complain that poor management of the program has wreaked havoc on the entire retrofit industry.
Those who perform energy audits—building experts licensed under the program to assess houses for inefficiencies—say the on-again, off-again approach of the government has put their businesses in limbo. The Toronto-based energy auditing organization GreenSaver says it will experience a sudden reduction in business this week, after the deadline for post-retrofit audits (those who signed on to the program before it expired still had one year to complete a required final audit after their renovations were completed). “Right now, we are busy like crazy because people are trying to get to the deadline in the next two or three days,” says Vladan Veljovic, GreenSaver’s CEO, “but our business is going to drop off to nothing.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 4:16 PM - 8 Comments
The NDP’s Pat Martin asks a question of the government this afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, as part of their blitzkrieg of self-promotion, the government is hanging home renovation flyers on the doorknobs of 3.5 million Canadian homes. Will the Minister of Transport and gilding the lily please tell us how much these doorknob thingies are costing the taxpayer? Who is being paid to deliver them to 3.5 million homes? Who is deciding which neighbourhoods and which targeted ridings are getting these gratuitous reminders of the glory that is Rome from the font from which surely all goods things and sunshine must flow?
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 24, 2009 at 3:53 PM - 5 Comments
Celebrity contractor and owner of many sleeveless shirts, Mike Holmes, makes pitch for government tax credit and upstanding guys like him. To reinforce Holmes’ point, newspaper editors put headline “Go with the pro” above photo of Prime Minister famously struggling with a nail gun.