Premier Doug Ford was in Guelph on Wednesday morning to do something that was once considered anathema to his brand, support for the development of electric vehicles. At a Linamar facility in town, Ford and Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli announced the second phases of their auto strategy to support domestic production of EVs and EV parts.
“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,” Ford said in a statement. “This plan makes clear that Ontario is a world-leading partner in creating the best vehicles with the best labour force and clean energy. With this next phase of Driving Prosperity, we’re telling the world: we want your businesses!”
The main gist of phase 2 is to build 400,000 EV and hybrid vehicles by 2030. With partners in the automotive sector, the plan will initiate programs to attract battery assembly plants, introduce new innovations at all levels from design to production, invest in workers and training, and establish an electric batter supply chain between minerals mined in the north and manufacturing in the south.
The Ontario government notes that car manufacturers from Windsor to Ingersoll have invested $4 billion in the next generation of electric and hybrid vehicles since they launched phase 1 in 2019.
“Today, a quarter of our business and growing is for the next generation of vehicle propulsion, electrified vehicles,” said Linda Hasenfratz, the CEO of Linamar. “That’s fantastic considering electrified vehicles are less than five per cent of the global market. That means we are winning electrified vehicle business at five times the rate of market penetration, and we are really excited about this next chapter in the future of mobility.”
The excitement of the announcement was somewhat tempered by Ford’s record of support, or lack thereof, for electric vehicles. In 2019, 24 EV charging stations were removed from 12 GO Train stations around the GTA, and in one of the current government’s first moves after being elected in 2018, they canceled a $14,000 EV rebate program introduced by the previous Liberal government.
“Before the election, I didn’t believe in giving millionaires rebates on $100,000 Tesla cars. Nothing against Tesla, they’re gorgeous cars,” Ford said when asked about ending the rebate. “I just didn’t believe in it. Let’s see how the market dictates.”
That kind of hedging drew the attention of Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner. “Today’s announcement is encouraging, but Doug Ford remains out of touch with what Ontarians need in order to transition to electric vehicles,” he said in a statement.
“Doug Ford’s aversion to electric vehicles has contributed significant economic damage for Ontario and set the province backwards as the world embraces the green economy,” Schreiner added. “Today’s announcement is encouraging, but Doug Ford remains out of touch with what Ontarians need in order to transition to electric vehicles.”
At the media availability in Guelph, Ford and Fedeli were asked about promoting increased EV purchases, but they did not offer any indication of actions that were either director or immediate. “With the Ministry of Transportation we have an electrification council, and they are looking at the entire growth of the sector, making the forecasts, and we’ll be making the decisions based on the results from the electrification council,” Fedeli said.
As for politics, at least one reporter noticed that this was Ford’s second trip to Guelph in less than a week. Although Ford credited Guelph as being an “easy place to do business” thanks to our “champion” of a mayor, Cam Guthrie, Ford does think that the Progressive Conservatives have a good chance at winning this riding next spring.
“Yes, I think we have an opportunity in every jurisdiction in the province where we’re bringing jobs or bringing infrastructure,” Ford said. “Absolutely, I think we can win Guelph, I think we’re gonna win a lot of areas.”
Schreiner was also thinking about the election in today’s statement.
“The Ontario Greens’ Roadmap for Net-Zero climate plan will make EVs more accessible and affordable than fossil fuel vehicles through feebates, rental systems, incentives geared to income and a Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) mandate,” Schreiner explained. “Ontario is well positioned to build on strengths in mining, innovation, financing and auto manufacturing to build a strong EV manufacturing strategy and electric transportation industry supply chain. But Doug Ford’s anti-climate agenda isn’t helping. Ontario Greens have the real leadership to build a cleaner, more prosperous future for Ontario. To build the world we want.”
Photo Courtesy of Mayor Cam Guthrie’s Twitter.