Ottawa enacted the carbon in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick, the provinces that refused federal instructions to put in place their own provincial plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Ontario, the duty replaces the cap-andtrade system that had been established by the former Liberal government but cancelled by Premier Doug Ford’s Conservatives.
Under Ottawa’s plan, heavy industries are assigned emission limits that would invoke penalties if exceeded. This would increase costs, which could run into the millions, said Nantais.
“In aggregate, this could conceivably be many millions of dollars, but I don’t know for sure,” he said.
While manufacturing is exempt from tax on emissions up to 80 per cent of the industry average, that formula does not work for the automakers, Nantais said.
“It’s emissions by number of units produced, so it does fluctuate based on the emissions versus units produced. If your production goes up or down given the market and the response to the market, then you could conceivably pay more one year and less the next year if you exceed the 80 per cent.”
Ontario’s government is legally challenging the carbon tax, which also raised prices at the gasoline pump by about 4.4 cents a litre.
"You could be for manufacturing jobs or you could be for the carbon tax, but you can't be for both," Ford told reporters back in November, according to the CBC.
Nantais, whose association represents the Detroit Three automakers, said his members support the need to reduce climate change and greenhouse-gas emissions, but stressed revenue generated by the tax should be used by companies to reinvest into newer energy efficiency programs at their plants.
“The auto-manufacturing industry in Canada is the highest trade exposed of any other sector and we are very low energy intensive,” Nantais said. “We’re trying to have discussions with [the government] about trade exposure, the 80 per cent, and recycling of revenues. Whatever you pay out under revenue should be returned to use that money to invest in energy-efficiency projects that make you more competitive. So, you’re not just purely taxed, a tax that your competitors don’t have.”
David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada, which represents overseas automakers, said the tax could inflate vehicle prices.
“The challenge is always to the extent of these taxes increasing the price of a vehicle and that potentially limits vehicle turnover. ...You try to make things cleaner and greener with new technologies but that adds a price to it and, in turn, inhibits the turnover of the vehicles because people can’t afford new technologies.”
NO IMPACT ON SALES?
Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, said the tax likely won’t have a measurable impact on new vehicle sales.
“I don’t sense this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Gas prices are an indirect issue. It increases operating costs, but relative to others it’s small. It’s more likely to cause a small shift in segmentation.
“The average vehicle this past decade has increased its fuel efficiency by 25 per cent, some even in the 35-40 per cent range,” he said.
“This is therefore much more of a tax grab than anything that can cause a change in market dynamic. The auto sector has been a target for taxes under the guise of climate change across the country.”
The carbon tax, he added, is unlikely to dramatically alter the shift in the consumer buying trend from passenger cars to light-truck sales.
“The vehicle market has very much moved to a need basis and less reaction to a cost-of-ownership basis because the cost of ownership has come down so much.”
Nantais, however, said increasing fuel costs will likely move consumers toward more fuel-efficient vehicles.