Heat rebate figures confound senior

LUNENBURG COUNTY, NOVA SCOTIA - A Lunenburg County senior wants to know why the province has put a wide dollar range on rebate amounts available for electricity and oil heat.

The heating assistance rebate program offers eligible Nova Scotians up to $450 cash back if they heat with oil, propane, or natural gas. Those heating with electricity, wood, coal or wood pellets can get a rebate of up to $150.

The senior said she received the $150 rebate but feels she is incurring higher electricity costs than a neighbour who received the $450 and burns oil for heat.

"I don't understand the difference," said the woman, who didn't want her name published because she didn't want it to seem she was jealous of the amount received by her neighbour.

"We pay more in electric heat than they do with the oil," she said. "Why such a big difference between the two? Why should they get more help they we do?"

Jack O'Connell, president of the Lunenburg County Senior Citizens' Council, said he thinks fluctuating world oil prices may have something to do with the rebate differential.

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, the department responsible for the program, said that's exactly it.

"At the time the program was created there was drastic increase on a world- wide basis in oil," spokeswoman Deborah Bayer said.

Mr. O'Connell suggested electricity rates had been fairly stable up to this point but noted that figure is going up and oil prices appears to be on the decline.

Nova Scotia Power's 9.3 per cent increase comes into effect in January, meaning about $9 extra will be tacked on to the average power bill.

Mr. O'Connell said general frustration with government is more of the type of talk he hears, not the rebate amounts or the application process.

"I don't find there's that many people talking about it, really." he said.

Ms Bayer said there's no mechanism in place at this point to adjust the maximum available amounts but "we're always evaluating our programs on an ongoing basis."



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