Climate policy is at the forefront of the coming federal election. All the major parties have their own take on reducing emissions, including tax credits, bans on single-use plastics, promises on renewable energy and even plans to retrain fossil-fuel workers for the renewable energy sector. But with transportation making up 29 per cent of emissions in the United States in 2017, according to an EPA study, and light-duty vehicles making up 59 per cent of that, electric cars could be an important step in making change. But when it comes to the future of electric cars in Canada, which party will lead the charge? Here are the positions of each major party when it comes to zero-emission vehicles on our roads.
The Liberal government’s last budget in March earmarked $130-million over five years to advance both electric charging and hydrogen fuel stations across the country for EVs and fuel cell vehicles, which would include workplaces, remote locations and other public areas. As well, an added $300-million over three years would be set aside to provide incentives of up to $5,000 for buyers of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) under $45,000, or ZEVs below $55,000 with seven seats or more. Another $5-million would go to Transport Canada to work with automakers to set sales targets for EVs in the coming years. All of this works toward the party’s target of making EVs 30 per cent of all light vehicles on the road by 2030.
Perhaps tellingly, a climate change debate scheduled for Oct. 16 at the University of Ottawa was cancelled because the Conservatives refused to participate. Of all the parties, the Conservatives have given us the least to look forward to when it comes to zero-emission vehicles. During a French language debate on Oct. 2, leader Andrew Scheer said that the party will continue the federal EV rebate program until the end of its schedule. He then quickly pivoted to talk of producing more Canadian gasoline. And let’s not forget Ontario’s short-lived $14,000 EV rebate, which was set up by former premier Kathleen Wynne and almost immediately cancelled when Conservative leader Doug Ford took office. The only nod to green vehicles from the Conservatives is their promise to work on developing electric vehicle technology, although there’s no definitive plan or budget.
Party leader Jagmeet Singh is a proponent of financial incentives for ZEVs, saying they will start at the same Liberal target of $5,000, as well as waiving the federal sales tax. But the party also promises to raise those incentives eventually to a whopping $15,000 to buyers. The caveat? The vehicles must be made in Canada, which means consumers have just one choice: the Windsor, Ont.-built Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan. Of course, this is a move to appeal to the Canadian Auto Workers union, but it’s highly unlikely – actually, pretty well impossible – that this will push automakers to move their ZEV production to Canada. The party also vows to convert government fleets to ZEVs, create what they call a ‘centre of excellence’ for ZEV research and development, expand the public charging network and give further incentives of $600 for home chargers, all toward a target of 100 per cent ZEVs on Canadian roads by 2040.
There are more incentives here, although not as many as you might expect. Leader Elizabeth May also vows to waive the federal sales tax on both new and used ZEV purchases. The party also plans to expand charging stations around the country, especially at government facilities, although there is no specific plan or budget. One oddity: While the Greens are promising to convert all Canada Post vehicles to EVs, there is no mention in their platform of any financial incentive for consumers to purchase battery powered vehicles, which is strange coming from a party whose entire platform – its existence, even – revolves around saving the planet.
From a purely consumer standpoint of someone who wants to put an electric vehicle in their driveway, the Liberals are the best bet by far, while the Conservatives don’t even merit a blip on the radar. But beyond financial incentives and infrastructure investment, there is one surefire way to get more Canadians into electric cars, and that’s by doubling or even tripling the price of gasoline. Unfortunately, every politician of any party stripe knows even the mere mention of that is political suicide.
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