Federal NDP Finance Critic Nathan Cullen (left) has a look at one of the solar panels Jarek Kubacki and Small World Energy install for their customers in Campbell River. The visit was part of Cullen's tour of Vancouver Island speaking about supporting small business and examining the country's energy policy alongside North Island–Powell River NDP candidate Rachel Blaney (right).

NDP touts strategy for small business, renewable energy, research and development

Incentives for diversification in energy sector a priority: Cullen

NDP Finance Critic and Member of Parliament for BC’s Skeena–Bulkley Valley Nathan Cullen was touring Vancouver Island last week, and had more than a few things to say about the Conservative government’s failure to support small business when he stopped in Campbell River.

Together with the North Island–Powell River NDP candidate for the upcoming federal election Rachel Blaney, Cullen met with the media at the Campbell River home of Jarek Kubacki – owner and operator of Small Planet Energy.

What brought a national finance critic from Parliament off the beaten track to a home-based business on Homewood Road?

“I think ‘off the beaten track’ is what’s going to make the difference in the economy,” he said. “We’re likely in a recession right now. The Bank of Canada confirmed that last week. The government of Canada is running another defect this year – despite all the ads.

“The Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that yesterday. And our job growth in Canada stinks.

“It’s been 18 months of less than one per cent job growth.

“We need to look to solutions, and it’s guys like (Kubacki) that are providing solutions.”

Small business creates eight out of every 10 new jobs in Canada, Cullen said, and yet they get almost no attention from the federal government.

The NDP, he said, if elected, would address that and create policy that would help those businesses succeed.

He would also like to see changes to energy policy and the way research and development is done in Canada.

“Research, development and innovation in Canada is amongst the lowest of any developed country in the world,” he said. “We spend less money and time, both public and private, on innovation, and you have to ask yourself why. We are going down the value chain in this country, not up.”

For example, Kubacki has been designing and installing renewable energy systems in and around Campbell River since 2009.

“We can do everything from a small cabin to a community-based system, both on and off grid,” he said, but also said he’d have a lot more work if there was more incentive for people to get on board with clean energy.

Almost everyone who calls him for a quote on a project wants to know when they’re going to break even by saving on electricity costs, he said, and because there are no subsidies on personal systems – in fact the government keeps adding import tariffs and additional cost for clean technology that comes in from out of the country – and the cost of hydro is so low, thanks to their subsidies, it’s still between 20 and 30 years before personal systems pay off financially.

The only advantage Canada has right now, Cullen said – in terms of developing an energy and economic diversification strategy – is that we’re so far behind the rest of the world, we’ve been able to see what works and what doesn’t.

“We’re playing catch up, there is no question about it. This same business in Germany,” he said, referencing Small Planet Energy, “is three times as big and started 20 years ago.”

Cullen said the federal policy has been lacking in terms of joining government and the clean energy business.