Sunday, April 06, 2008

Flesh On Bone

Policy anyone? It's funny, because I sincerely believe the Liberals need to release some policy now, and resist the "wait for an election" rationale. That said, what is being floated in this article might be the type of policy best kept under wraps, especially when you consider the Conservatives preference for re-branding Liberal initiatives on the environment. All that aside, I like it:
Four Liberals interviewed by The Canadian Press confirmed the party is actively considering mortgage options to entice homeowners to go green.

One plan would allow homeowners to repay loans for retrofitting their homes through savings on heating and electricity costs. Certified inspectors would assess the home and recommended retrofits that would improve energy efficiency. The energy savings over time would then repay the retrofit loan.

Another idea is what Liberal environment critic David McGuinty calls a "location-efficient mortgage" that would let people who buy homes near public transit borrow mortgage money at a lower interest rate. That would encourage transit use and discourage driving.

The owner of an average four-bedroom home would have to invest between $3,000 and $7,000 to turn it into a green building, said Jonathan Westeinde, managing partner of Ottawa-based developer Windmill Development Group.

But he added the banks aren't necessarily confident homeowners will save enough money through retrofitting to pay back their loans.

That's where the green mortgage scheme comes in.

"Whatever those forecast savings are, and what the bank is moving outside its box on related to the mortgage, that portion would be guaranteed by the government," said Westeinde, who has spoken with the Liberals about their green mortgage plan.

"And what that becomes then is the tool that enables the market to get a bunch of products out. It doesn't require a whole bunch of non-recoverable grants by the government."

The article mentions that some smaller banks are already pursuing this angle, but the idea would surely move to mainstream if a Liberal government where to guarantee the loan. One of the biggest hurdles, for people who want to improve their efficiency, the high cost up front, which sometimes isn't feasible, even if there is a return long term. This initiative would eliminate that barrier, in many ways it becomes a no brainer, because ultimately you are better off.

This idea is the kind of policy that gets you behind your party, it defines the "new" Liberals. It also makes it a little easier to reach into the wallet, because I must say, the recent email asking to donate using Conservative immigration reforms as inspiration (give us money, so we can roll over and go into the fetal position) was hardly persuasive.

Thank-you, for throwing us a bone, even if Baird lifts it ;) A great idea.

9 comments:

Mushroom said...

For a policy wonk like me, I find this to be confusing.

Tinkering with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation rules may help, but you need to do more for the environment.

Better steal the BC revenue neutral carbon tax. Or promote tax shifting, something I am too half assed to blog about.

jad said...

This sounds pretty much like the program the Liberals introduced when they were in Government, and the Conservatives cancelled. It consisted of the Government paying for an environmental audit of someone's house, and the owner then had to pay for the recommended improvements. What happened was that a number of the audits were carried out, but virtually no-one went ahead with the improvements, presumably because they had to pay for them up front. It's clear from the article that this is a long way from being properly worked out, but I think its even more dangerous to come up with these half-baked schemes that are not thought through properly (remember Mr. McTeague and the RESP thing ?) than to come up with no policy.

Before the Liberals come up with new ways to spend money or provide guarantees, they should figure out exactly how they are going to pay for it all.

But first of all maybe they need to decide what issue exactly is going to make them stand up and vote.

liberazzi said...

Not sure how pratical or manageable this program will be. Mcguinty was not saying this was a concrete proposal yet. It's good to hear that they are starting to "flesh" out some ideas, but its not going to matter. They are going to get crusified this week for abstaining on immigration. Various commentators believe that this be the worst abstentian of the bunch. If they abstain on one of their core beliefs as a party, what are they going to be able to stand up for when we eventually go to an election? What are earth are they thinking? Abstaining will not cover up these warts, its time to see what Dion is made of and finally quell the uncertainty.

Tomm said...

Steve,

I agree with Mushroom in that I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Your post is quite persuasive. It certainly would be "new" liberal, and it does appeal to our future needs as a society. On the other hand, as a self sufficient kind of guy, I really don't like the governemnt nose ring for the guys getting these mortgages and a less than fond rememberance of my own student loans, comes to mind. But I can see it appealing to a liberal voter.

Why is THIS house better than THAT house? Because some bureaucrat decided so? Those kinds of things rub me the wrong way.

Anyway, good post. I am totally in agreement on getting "flesh on the bones".

Tomm

Steve V said...

"may help, but you need to do more for the environment."

Obviously, this is just one idea, that hopefully works in tandem with other moves. I never assumed this was it...

jad

Seems to me that "half baked" idea found a lot of support??

Yes, there was a program that "had to pay up front", this addresses that, that's the point. You get the money up front, and then the savings are put towards paying it off. It's like the old idea, that provides incentive. If you can tell Canadians that we'll give you the money to do it, you'll pay the savings back, then when your done, you still have efficiency, then its attractive.

Mushroom said...

"really don't like the governemnt nose ring for the guys getting these mortgages and a less than fond rememberance of my own student loans"

Any mention of the word mortgage in 2008 should be political taboo. Reminds too many people of the US Savings and Loan debacle and the subprime lending crisis.

Canada is fortunate to get out of the subprime mortgage crisis thanks to Canada National Energy Policy hero Red Ed Clark. Definitely am happy to see my TD stocks didn't take a tumble. I would rather have Dion punish Albertan oil guzzlers by stealth than tinker with the homeowning aspirations of working class families. Might as well go swing for the fences on the environment file.

Anonymous said...

Sheesh, you're worried about Conservative stealing this? The NDP propsed it four years ago.

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/print/CTVNews/20040525/ndp_retrofit_040525/20040525/?hub=SpecialEvent7&subhub=PrintStory

Not only did Jack Layton propose this idea in the '04 campaign, he pioneer it by actually putting it into practice on a commercial level in Toronto.

http://www.toronto.ca/toronto_history/councillors/2001-2003/layton1.htm

bigcitylib said...

Its small bore stuff, but fairly concrete and helpful. The LEM idea, as I say in my post this morning, is a bit urban centric.

The program is a bit like the one Jad mentions (name escapes me), which the Conservatives brought back in a slightly less effective form, but this would be in additiont to that program and would presumably take place in the home buying stage.

All doable, not flashy. One 1/2thumbs up.

Northern PoV said...

We should keep "the platform" under wraps till the writ is dropped - for purely tactical reasons.
Re "policy", I agree with you.

We need to enunciate clear positions that will resonate when the platform is released.

Unfortunately, enunciation is precisely our leader's problem - so in addition to Dion, lets have Rae, Iggy, Kennedy, LeBlanc (esp LeBlanc) and others make news staking out our ground for the next couple of months.

We have lots of juicy issues/scandals/attitudes to attack (or provide a positive alternative to) the cons on, a list you all know so well.

Here is my suggestion for a "new" one: Federalism. Harper has opened this Pandora's Box so ... lets use it. Strong federalism ... including fiscal support of URBAN issues .... will be a winner every where but the more-Neanderthal parts of Alberta and Quebec.
So those parts of Alberta (hey the whole province basically), is a write off, who cares? Give em 20 years, they will come around.

Quebec: here the strategy is “hold the base”. Given the Outremont by-election debacle, not a bad strategy. Federalism plays well to the base in Quebec. So it is only 10 to 15 ridings. Better than losing those by pandering to the nationalist vote ala Harper. If the remnants of the Paul-Martin crowd (fellow-travelers of LaPiere) jump ship: GOOD. And here is the silver lining … the nationalist votes have been parked at the BQ and are now swinging to Harper based on his pandering AND the fact that he is perceived as the likely winner. If we can demonstrate that we are likely to form the gov’t – those votes will migrate back to the BQ and/or right to the winners/Liberals (as the Quebecers have shown the uncanny ability to choose their short term interest well above their separatist ambitions).

And hey, Dion is a hero on Federalism and known for his environmentalism - he can make a good argument that strong Federalism is needed for effective environmentalism.

Many other things make us look wishy washy.. among the worst:
* We looked shitty on Afghanistan – despite the Liberal spin the perception is that we said “No, never, never, never … welll OK)
* Voting for the stupid “nation” resolution.

We need to enunciate clear consistent positions (and think them through ahead of time so as not to get snagged in another Harper-trap.)