By Andru McCracken

The Province announced that it was funding a wood stove exchange program in 15 British Columbian communities including Valemount, but the local village council wasn’t breathing a sigh of relief at the announcement.

Though the village has been funded for $10,000, the contribution comes with strict guidelines as to its use. That means only about $2500 of the grant will go to actually replacing wood stoves.

Other funding goes to advertising the program, and more still goes to hosting ‘Burn it Smart’ workshops.

Councillors Hollie Blanchette and Peter Pearson were beside themselves.

“It is nice to see the program, it is discouraging that $2500 goes to replacing stoves and $7500 goes to advertising and promotion,” said Blanchette.

“It boggles my mind,” said Pearson, “How are we going to get people to exchange?”

Blanchette asked if the village would be able to ‘fiddle with the numbers.’

“There is a lot of money here, but for $250 nobody will be able to replace their stove,” said Blanchette.

Mayor Owen Torgerson reminded councilors that while the incentive to replace old wood stoves, with new wood stoves, higher incentives are in place for folks to replace their stove with gas, electric heat, or pellet stoves.

“We’re trying to incentivize non-firewood burning appliances,” said Torgerson. “Not just to go for another wood stove.”

He also reminded the councilors that the Valemount Community Forest and the Village had agreed to donate $5000 each, meaning the funding will have some reach.

Chief Administrative Wayne Robinson said Valemount is in a position to offer really great rebates that compare very favourably to other communities.

The Ministry of the Environment said burning wood creates significant air pollution by increasing particulate matter in the air. Valemount is one of the worst communities for air quality in the province due largely to home-based wood burning appliances.

“The Wood Stove Exchange Program reduces local air pollution by helping people trade out old woodstoves for electric models or for cleaner-burning ones like gas, propane or pellet heating,” said a release from the ministry.

“This program is a step toward further reduction of the harms that can result from wood burning stoves,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.” 

Eligible British Columbians can apply for the following incentives:

* $250 for changing to a cleaner-burning wood stove;

* $500 for those who live in “Red Zone” communities (like Valemount), which are areas where fine particulate matter exceeds the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards. Residents there can use the money to change to a heat pump, gas or propane stove, or pellet-fuelled stove.

The program is said to have worked, helping replace more than 8000 old stoves province wide.