In November, both the Liberal and Conservative parties in Ontario announced their visions for the future of electric vehicles in the province. These announcements came months after the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) plan was revealed. This article discusses these announcements and the various political positions held surrounding EVs in the province.
Before delving into the future of electric vehicles (EVs) in Ontario, we’re going to take a look back on the province’s track record with the Liberal and Conservative governments.
The Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (EVIP) was originally introduced in 2010 and was modernized in 2016 to support the adoption of EVs, reward early adopters, and create a market demand for new technologies. Then, in an attempt to further support the goals of Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan and promote increased EV adoption, new EVIP program parameters were developed to make EVs even more affordable. This became effective on January 1, 2017.
In 2018, when Doug Ford became the Premier of Ontario, he and his Conservative government made the decision to cancel the EVIP program along with a number of other programs that supported it. At the time, the program offered up to $14K back for buyers, along with another incentive program that offered $1K to offset the costs of a home or office charging station. The Conservatives justified this move at the time as a cost-cutting measure, while also insisting on how serious their commitment was to fighting climate change, manufacturing EVs, and battery production. When asked about the cancellation of the program personally, Ford stated, “I’m not going to give rebates to guys that are buying $100,000 cars – millionaires.”
Unsurprisingly, after the cancellation of these incentives, the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles in the province slowed. According to data from FleetCarma, 7,477 battery and plug-in hybrid EVs were sold in Ontario in 2017, up a whole 120% from 2016 when the increased rebates were implemented. Then, for the first 6 months of 2019, sales in Ontario were down more than 55% from the same period in 2018 according to data from Electric Mobility Canada. In the second quarter of 2019, 2,933 EVs were sold in Ontario, down from 7,110 in the same period as the previous year.
According to FleetCarma CEO Matt Stevens, without some incentive in place to bridge the gap in price between regular vehicles and electric or hybrid vehicles, consumers won’t purchase them in the same numbers. As such, keeping the rebates in place for even a few more years would have been helpful. However, their removal won’t be enough to stop the transition from occurring. “While this will certainly have a slowing effect, the long-term future of EVs being where Ontario’s going to go, it continues,” he said.
Proposed Party Strategies
The Conservative EV Strategy
Now, as Premier Doug Ford nears the end of his term in office, the topic of EVs is suddenly back on the table – however, there has been no mention of a subsidy program. On November 17, 2021, Doug Ford and the Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli made an announcement in Guelph, ON, unveiling a new part of the province’s auto strategy – a partnership with the auto sector to build at least 400K electric and hybrid vehicles by 2030.
Referring back to his 2018 statement, Doug Ford stated, “Before the election, I didn’t believe in giving millionaires rebates on $100K Tesla cars. Nothing against Tesla, they’re gorgeous cars. But I just didn’t believe in it. Let’s see how the market dictates. We’re putting billions and billions of dollars into the EV market, into companies. We’re partnering with the federal government. I always look at what the market will bear.”
When unveiling the province’s new auto strategy, Ford said, “Our government has a plan to unleash Ontario’s economic potential as we build up home-grown supply chains for electric vehicles and battery manufacturing. This plan makes clear that Ontario is a world-leading partner in creating the best vehicles with the best labour force and clean energy.”
Now, the province states its goal is to grow Ontario’s auto sector by building at least 400K electric and hybrid vehicles by 2030. How do they expect to manage this? They will be partnering with the sector to “reposition vehicle and parts production through new mandates, attract a new battery assembly plant, increase exports for parts and innovations, equip workers with skills for high-paying jobs, and establish an electric battery supply chain ecosystem that connects Northern Ontario’s mineral wealth with the manufacturing strength of Southern Ontario.”
The Liberal EV Strategy
The Ontario Liberals announced their intention to revive an EV incentive program if elected in next year’s provincial election. Specifically, they made a pledge to reinstate a program that would offer buyers up to $8K off the purchase price of eligible models. Ontario Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca says that this program would apply to EVs worth up to $60K – modelling it on an approach like Quebec’s. The government would also offer various levels of support for purchases and leases, offering up to $1.5K to consumers for the purchase of charging equipment. This would be on top of the current federal rebates available for Canadians up to $5K per car or truck.
“Creating a new electric vehicle incentive program is a win-win for Ontario families. It will advance the fight against climate change, create good-paying jobs and deliver needed pocketbook relief,” according to Steven Del Duca. With the Liberal’s incentives, the buyer of an eligible EV would be able to receive up to $13K in subsidies, with about 91 various models ranging in price (up to $60K) would qualify. However, more luxurious models such as top-of-the-line Teslas or Porsches would not qualify.
The NDP EV Strategy
It was Ontario’s NDP under Andrea Horwath that first announced an EV strategy if elected in next year’s election. In March 2021, the NDP released its climate plan, within which are plans for new electric vehicle incentives. The NDP consulted on its Green New Democratic Deal discussion paper for over a year, gathering input and ideas from industry, labour, climate scientists, First Nations, educators and community members. When it comes to EVs, this deal aims to establish the province’s first zero-emissions vehicle strategy – ramping up EV sales to hit 100% by 2035, and a $600 rebate for households that install EV charging stations at home. This plan goes above and beyond in the planning department, also including requirements for new homes to have vehicle charging capabilities.
In July 2021, Andrea Horwath spoke at the University of Guelph about the party’s zero-emission vehicle strategy, stating, “It’s bold, but it is absolutely achievable.”
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