In a notice of a proposed regulatory change, quietly given in the middle of the election campaign on April 16, the Natural Resources department proposed pushing back the deadline for phasing out incandescent bulbs by two years.
Instead of getting rid of 100W and 75W incandescent bulbs by January 1, 2012, the deadline would be Jan. 1, 2014.
The December 31, 2012 deadline for 60W and 40W light bulbs would be pushed back to December 31, 2014.
"Delaying the date for compliance with Canada's efficiency standards for general service lighting for 100/75/60/40W light bulbs general service lamps is required in order to strengthen communication activities, to allow for technological innovations and to consider the concerns expressed about the availability of compliant technologies and perceived health and mercury issues, including safe disposal for compact fluorescent lamps," the government wrote in the notice of its proposal.
Instead of phasing out incandescent bulbs ahead of the U.
S., Canada will now be behind the U.S. in getting rid of all four wattages of bulbs. The U.S. is scheduled to get rid of 100W bulbs on January 1, 2012, 75W bulbs on January 1, 2013, and 60W and 40W bulbs on January 1, 2014.
The proposed delay in the federal rules is not expected to impact provincial regulations.
The notice of the proposed delay comes four years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government announced with much flourish that it would ban incandescent light bulbs.
"Today, we're making a commitment to set performance standards," then Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn told reporters in April 2007. "These new regulations will be in place by the end of this year and, within five years, all those energy-inefficient lighting and bulbs, they're going to be gone."
Traditional incandescent bulbs are considered less energy efficient because much of their energy escapes as heat rather than as light.
Lunn said banning inefficient lighting would reduce greenhouse gases by six million tonnes a year and reduce the average household's electricity bill by $50 a year.
The regulations would prohibit the importation and interprovincial shipment of non-compliant light bulbs.
In its proposal, however, the government says it has not yet succeeded in selling Canadians on the change or allaying concerns about the potential impact of compact flourescent lamps on health and the environment. It says a two-year delay will give it a chance to convince Canadians that the new rules don't dictate a particular technology, that there are a number of different alternatives to incandescent lights and that compact flourescent lamps aren't a health risk.
Meanwhile, Environment Canada will draft regulations that will require manufacturers and importers of lamps containing mercury to develop a program to recycle them. The proposed regulations are expected to be published by the end of 2011 and implemented in 2012.
Liberal environment critic David McGuinty questioned the government's commitment to phasing out incandescent light bulbs, pointing out it has had four years to prepare for the change.
"It's not surprising. It's very much par for the course because the government has continued to downplay anything dealing with energy or the environment for the past five years," he said.
Bruce Lourie, of the group Environmental Defence, said setting up a program to recycle compact flourescent bulbs isn't that complicated and questioned whether a delay was really necessary.
If the United States bans incandescent light bulbs before Canada does, Canada risks becoming a dumping ground for an inefficient product, he said.
"I think it is crazy for Canada to not be doing it at the same time as the U.S. and really if they were serious about it they would have put in place the appropriate mechanism to do it right and not require this delay."
A study released in March by Statistics Canada found that in 2009, 88 per cent of Canadian households had at least one kind of energy-saving light ranging from 75 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador to 92 per cent in Nova Scotia. The most popular kind of energy-saving light was compact fluorescent lights.