In a campaign-style announcement on Thursday morning, Official Opposition leader Andrea Horwath landed in Guelph with a couple of her NDP colleagues to talk about her party’s plan to promote the use of electric vehicles. The setting, next to some EV charging stations, was not subtle, and neither was the political message. In the home of Ontario’s first Green MPP, Horwath wanted to make the point that she’ll be better on the environment file.
“We are absolutely in a climate emergency. We see the fires burning right now in many parts of of Canada, and here in Ontario we’ve seen the flooding and soaring temperatures,” Horwath said in a parking lot next to MacDonald Hall on the University of Guelph. “We need to urgently address the climate crisis, and we can create some opportunities to address it, and create create some great opportunities for the future here in our province.”
The “opportunity” Horwath mentioned was a policy direction that she described as the “boldest, most effective climate plan that Ontario has ever seen.”
The plan she announced on Thursday focused on electric vehicles, and how it would provide incentives for car manufacturers to move their production to 100 per cent EV by 2035, and would set sales targets starting with 15 per cent by 2025 and ending with 100 per cent by 2035. The plan would also give $600 per household to install an EV charging station, and require developers to automatically install EV chargers in all future homes.
For the government itself, Horwath pledged to convert all vehicles in the government’s fleet to electric by 2030 and to work with municipalities to electrify their transit fleets by 2040. The NDP plan will also accelerate the electrification of GO Trains, and restore provincial funding for local transit services.
“We’re going to have to develop a plan in concert with municipalities. We know that they need operating funds, they need capital funds, and they’re going to need funds to convert their fleets to all electric,” added Toronto Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns, the NDP critic for Energy and the Climate Crisis. “You should see this as a strategy that embraces both public transit and personal vehicles. That’s where we’re headed.”
Horwath said that Thursday’s announcement was part of what she calls, the “Green New Democratic Deal”, an Ontario spin on progressive environmental legislation proposed by left-wing American politicians. Horwath said it’s a plan for climates, jobs, and justice that will offer ways for Ontarians to reduce their carbon footprint, and build a greener, healthier future for the province.
In that respect, a Guelph-based announcement makes sense. Last year, there were a couple of announcements that brought Federal funds to the Royal City to increase the number of charging stations around town, and around campus. Before the pandemic last winter, there was a major funding announcement from Infrastructure Canada to convert the Guelph Transit bus fleet to electric vehicles.
“We want to have the infrastructure in place so that people can confidently purchase their electric vehicle with some support from the government, put charging stations into their own homes, and be confident that they don’t ever have to fall back on fossil fuels,” Horwath explained.
“The public transit piece also needs to be a priority, and we’ve made that a priority in our plan as well,” Horwath added. “We know that some municipalities are already changing over their fleets [to electric], but we want to make sure every municipality has the support of the Provincial government to do exactly that.”
While Horwath mentioned both the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives in her announcement, there was one other provincial political party that was conspicuous by the fact that the NDP leader didn’t mention them at all. No, there was no direct mention of Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, even though Horwath was standing in the middle of his riding, but she said that pundits should not take any message from her choice of location.
“I’m not taking aim at anything except showing Ontarians that there’s a better way forward, that there is a government that’s going to really tackle the challenges that we face, and that the NDP is primed to take on that role, and that responsibility, and bring hope to Ontario going forward,” Horwath said.