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McKenna criticized for plan to give Loblaw $12M for new fridges

Global News logo Global News 2019-04-09 Amanda Connolly
Catherine McKenna wearing a white shirt and red hair: Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna answers questions after meetings in Toronto on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. © THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna answers questions after meetings in Toronto on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is defending the decision to give up to $12 million in funding to Loblaw so it can install more energy-efficient fridges.

That comes just a year and a half after the company fought against raising the minimum wage, admitted to a 14-year bread price-fixing scheme and ended up in a tax court battle last year that saw it ordered to pay back taxes worth roughly $368 million related to a banking subsidiary in the Caribbean.

READ MORE: Loblaw admits to bread price-fixing for 14 years

"Installing new refrigerators results in 50,000 vehicles off the road every year, and Loblaw is also putting in money," said McKenna to reporters on Tuesday when questioned about why Loblaw warranted the funding.

"There are all sorts of projects we've been doing with companies, with cities making investments. We're all in this together. We need to make sure we're working really hard to reduce our emissions, that we're taking action in an affordable way and putting a price on pollution but giving the money back."

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She continued: "We need to take action across the board. Everyone has to be reducing their emissions."

Loblaw, which brought in $800 million in earnings last year, will get $12 million under the Liberals' new Low Carbon Economy Challenge Champion stream.

That program is part of the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund, which allocated roughly $2 billion to fund clean technology to reduce carbon emissions.

The first recipient under the Low Carbon Economy Challenge Champion stream, announced in January 2019, was a project by Enwave Energy Corporation to use deep, cold water from Lake Ontario to cool hospitals and other government, educational and highrise buildings in downtown Toronto.

But the announcement by McKenna on Monday has prompted criticism from the opposition parties and both civil and taxpayer advocates who are questioning why the government is giving money to help a profitable company retrofit the fridges in 370 stores and whether there are checks in place to monitor the funds.

The $12 million is set to be used by Loblaw for retrofits scheduled to take place between 2019 and 2022.

But it is not clear at this time whether the $12 million was given out in one chunk or whether it will be broken down as Loblaw hits retrofit targets, particularly given 2019 is an election year that could potentially see the Liberals — and their emissions-reduction focus — booted out of office.

A funding agreement still needs to be hammered out, according to a press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada on Monday.

McKenna said Loblaw will also be making investments of up to $36 million to reduce emissions, though she did not specify what those investments will go towards.

She said the new fridges will reduce Loblaw emissions by 23 per cent.

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