Cape Breton-Richmond MLA and Nova Scotia energy minister Michel Samson was in Paqtnkek Mi’kmaq Nation, March 31, to make an announcement regarding a new program to help First Nations communities, across the province, save money by making their homes more energy efficient.
Joined by colleague Randy Delorey – Antigonish MLA and finance minister – for the announcement, Samson noted the provincial government is investing $1.5 million to create the program.
“[A program] that will perform full efficiency upgrades for First Nations homes and offer training to community members,” a release to accompany the announcement stated.
“Eligible homes will receive a home energy assessment and energy efficiency upgrades at no charge. Upgrades can include draft-proofing, insulation and other efficiency options.
“Homeowners who participate in this program, and heat with a source other than electricity, can expect to save up to $965 on their energy bills every year,” the release further notes.
“I’m so pleased that First Nations communities will be able to improve their homes, save money on energy and participate in our cleaner energy future,” Samson said as part of the release. “By offering training options, the impact of this program has the potential to last for many years ahead, by creating jobs and helping small local businesses expand.”
He noted, while making the announcement, how, in many circumstances, First Nations people were left out of a program [HomeWarming] already in place and creating this new program will address that omission.
“There was a catch, you had to be a home owner and I know that is a barrier for many First Nations people in Nova Scotia,” he said, referencing the existing program.
“Today, I’m pleased to be able to say we’re creating a new program in partnership with First Nations to address their unique situation.”
He talked more about the unique situation being addressed in an interview with the Casket following the announcement.
“One of the big issues with the existing program that we had for energy efficiency was [the requirement of] having to own your own home which we knew was an issue for legal title when it comes to First Nations,” Samson said.
“So having this program being developed and that the Assembly [of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs] is going to determine what it should look like, I think this is going to be something that will continue.
“First Nations will see the benefits of it, not only from an environmental perspective and energy efficiency perspective, but the savings that they’re going to realize as a band which will allow them to be able to make investments in other areas, as a result of reduced energy assumption costs.”
He talked more about the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs setting the direction.
“The whole idea here is the Assembly will decide but we want them to be the primary beneficiaries of this so, that is why we’ve recommended they do some training with their members so they can carry out the assessments on the homes and do, with First Nation small businesses, the carrying out of the work,” he said.
“So there is economic development aspect of this as well and we want those benefits to stay in the First Nation communities.”
Samson talked about his government’s focus on working with First Nation communities.
“We certainly recognize our duty to consult and we have had a great working relationship with all of the chiefs, so I’m so pleased to be able to have this program specifically being put in place to benefit First Nations communities,” he said. “And, more importantly, they’ll decide, exactly, what the program should look like.”
Joining the two MLAs for the announcement were Potlotek First Nation Chief Wilbert Marshall as well as Chief Paul Prosper and the band council of Paqtnkek.
Prosper holds the role of lead chief of energy with the Assembly.
“The Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia are very energy aware,” he said, speaking after Samson made the funding announcement.
“Our respect, understanding and protection of the land, water and resources are just as important to our people today as they were for the generations who came before us.”
He talked about the work ahead to develop a program.
“It’s another step in furthering the knowledge and awareness for our Mi’kmaq community members and helping all Nova Scotians move towards a more environmentally aware future,” Prosper said.
“We’re pleased that through this program, Mi’kmaq community members will be employed and trained to install these retro-fits and it will be our own people who will be helping their neighbours, friends and families, to better their energy use in their homes.”
In talking to the Casket, Prosper emphasized the importance of a program for First Nation communities in the province.
“As mentioned before, Mi’kmaq communities are one of the highest users of electricity, for a variety of reasons,” he said.
“We’re in desperate need of housing, there is overcrowding in housing, so there are a variety of issues related to that. This project will help us retain savings for the community, for our home owners, to allow them to put those funds in other areas where they’re desperately needed … not only at the family level but at the community level as well.
“It will also provide us with the tools, the capacity, to understand how we can address and work on the proper techniques for energy efficiency within our homes … to figure out and learn ways around trying to address those gaps.”
Efficiency Nova Scotia will deliver the program on behalf of government.
“This support for energy efficiency will help improve the lives of First Nations people by making their homes more comfortable and more affordable places to live,” EfficiencyOne CEO Stephen MacDonald said, as part of the press release.
“We look forward to working with our government and First Nations partners in the coming months to bring these benefits to even more families.”