Ottawa’s plans for an ambitious electric vehicle strategy appear to be stalling out, months after it was supposed to be released, due to difficulties reaching agreement with provincial and territorial governments on the scope of the strategy.
“I think there was an expectation that there was going to be something more formal with respect to the national Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Strategy come out on Monday,” Global Automakers of Canada CEO David C. Adams told National Observer late last week. “Information that I’ve received over the last few days is that that’s been a little bit more of a struggle to come to some consensus amongst the federal government and the provinces and territories on that strategy.”
Citing multiple sources, Observer says Ottawa “wants to put something aggressive on the table. That could take the form of an electric vehicle (EV) sales mandate requiring a percentage of sales to be vehicles that don’t emit carbon pollution linked to climate change, or rebates that help lessen the burden of new EV costs for Canadians.”
But “a nation-wide mandate appears to be a long shot at this point, sources said. The group of government officials, stakeholders, and industry representatives that was set up to advise on the strategy has considered the option, but agreement with the provinces has proven increasingly difficult.”
While Quebec and B.C. both have EV subsidies, Quebec has a sales mandate, and B.C. is introducing one, Adams said the dramatic shift in Ontario’s EV policies following the arrival of the Doug Ford government “threw everybody for a loop”, forcing industry to shift gears on expectations and goals. “Automakers have also opposed a nationwide mandate, preferring auto policies aligned with the United States,” where the Donald Trump administration is pushing to roll back Obama-era fuel economy standards.
“If we don’t align with the U.S., there’s going to need to be a lot more flexibility for the industry in Canada to try and meet different, and potentially more stringent targets,” Adams told Observer.
In a news release Monday, Montreal-based Équiterre pointed to the lack of progress at the federal-provincial meeting, where Transport Canada Marc Garneau said there was still no consensus on a national plan. Garneau reaffirmed Ottawa’s ZEV targets—10% of new sales in 2025, 30% in 2030, and 100% in 2040. But Équiterre noted that EVs only accounted for 1.2% of new car sales in Canada in 2017, and 95% of the volume was in the three provinces—Ontario at the time, as well as Quebec and B.C.—that had adopted supportive programs.
“The closure of the GM Canada plant in Oshawa should have been an alarm bell for the federal government,” said Équiterre co-founder and Director General Sidney Ribaux. “GM and many other automakers are reorienting their production toward electric vehicles, but without investment and policy signals from governments, companies will continue to take their EV production elsewhere.”