A man leaves a Loblaws store in Toronto on May 3, 2018. Conservative environment critic Ed Fast is slamming the federal government’s decision to give $12 million to help Loblaws make their fridges and freezers more energy-efficient. Fast says he is curious how many ordinary Canadians could just walk into the prime minister’s office and ask him to buy them a new fridge. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Tories cry foul over $12M to help Loblaws buy energy-efficient coolers

Government says emissions reduced through the project equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the road

Conservative environment critic Ed Fast slammed the federal government Tuesday for giving $12 million to help Loblaws stores make their refrigerators and freezers more energy-efficient.

Fast said Loblaw made $3 billion in profit last year and yet the government is giving the company millions to buy fridges.

“This money came from hard-working Canadians, seniors and low-income families who struggle to make ends meet,” Fast roared in question period. “You tell me, how many Canadians can walk into the Prime Minister’s Office and ask them to pay for a new fridge? How many? Why is it always the wealthy and well-connected who get handouts from the Liberals?”

(According to Loblaw’s annual report for 2018, it had $800 million in net earnings after covering interest payments, taxes and other charges.)

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced the $12-million award at a Loblaws Superstore in her Ottawa riding Monday. The money will cover one-quarter of the costs of retrofitting the refrigeration systems in 370 of the company’s supermarkets over the next three years. Loblaw is to invest $36 million in the project.

READ MORE: Canada’s failure to fight climate change ‘disturbing,’ environment watchdog says

McKenna defended the funds Tuesday saying the greenhouse-gas emissions reduced through the project will cut Loblaw’s overall emissions by nearly a fourth and be the equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the road.

“This was an open tender, open to any company or organization across the country to get bang for the buck because, guess what,” McKenna said in response to Fast. ”Canadians want to reduce their emissions.”

The Loblaw funds come from the “champions stream” of the government’s Low Carbon Economy Fund. Provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, Indigenous communities and organizations, businesses and non-profits were invited to apply for a share of the $450-million program, to fund up to 25 per cent of an eligible project. The winners would were to be those with projects that cut the most emissions.

This fund is not paid for out of revenues from the carbon tax, rather the money is coming from other government sources.

There are 54 projects approved, and 16 have been publicly announced. Loblaw’s is the third-biggest to date. Titanium Corp., which developed technology to extract valuable minerals from oilsands waste, received a $40-million grant last month to help with its work remediating oil-sands tailings.

Canadian Natural Resources, an Alberta oil-and-gas producer, got $22.3 million in March to help buy a new steam turbine to power its facilities in the Athabasca oilsands.

Other announcements include $1.3 million to $5.9 million for the cities of Regina, Waterloo and Calgary to expand their landfill gas-capture systems, $1.5 million for the University of Saskatchewan to upgrade its heating, cooling and ventilation system, and $3.5 million for Enwave Energy Corp., in Prince Edward Island, expand its use of waste to produce heat.

The Conservatives were having none of McKenna’s explanations Tuesday.

Calgary MP Michelle Rempel posted a video to her YouTube page Monday in which she chats with a Manitoba grocery-store owner who is not happy a major grocery chain is getting $12 million. Amanda Stevenson, who owns Stevenson’s Foods in Lundar, Man., told Rempel her own store had a dairy cooler break this week and while the new one she will get is more efficient she isn’t getting any money from Ottawa to help pay for it.

Stevenson said she doesn’t actually want help but she doesn’t think corporations should get handouts either.

A spokeswoman for McKenna said small businesses could apply to a separate $50-million fund for help to cut their emissions. She said an announcement is also coming soon on the carbon-tax rebate program for small and medium-sized businesses to help offset carbon-tax costs businesses can’t pass on to consumers by raising their prices.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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