The Conservative Party of Canada won't say whether it will keep the federal electric-vehicle incentive program if it wins the October election.
When asked repeatedly by Automotive News Canada whether the program, which offers up to $5,000 rebates for some zero-emissions vehicles, would continue under a Conservative government, Dan Albas, the party’s critic for innovation, science and economic development, didn’t directly answer the question.
“We will look at taxation and regulation from a 50,000-square-foot view to make sure that we make the right changes,” said Albas, who represents the B.C. riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
“The industry is highly integrated, and we want to make sure that those changes broadly benefit Canadians, and that it won’t have impacts to the automotive sector, because it can be a sector that drives growth and employment and investment.”
The Conservatives, he said, would focus on implementing policies – particularly taxes and red tape -- designed to boost investment in the auto industry.
“We know what we need to do in the sector, and more broadly, we want to have a very competitive tax regime to put more money into people’s pockets and to attract investment,” Albas said. “We are going to be looking at every policy that allows us to do that. But there is a lot of integration in the market, so we are going to be responsible in how we look at taxation and regulation, because we want to see more investment in Canada and Canadian products.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s climate plan, released in June, does not mention EV incentives. His plan called for the government to work with provinces, territories and the auto industry “to develop faster charging electric vehicle batteries, increase the distances that can be travelled on a single charge, deal with the environmental challenges of recycling used batteries, and deploy the necessary charging or refueling infrastructure to accommodate a changing fleet.”
Scheer also pledged to eliminate the federal carbon tax, imposed on provinces which have not implemented measures to comply with Ottawa’s reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions.
Opinion polls indicate that the Liberals and Conservatives are in a dead heat heading into campaign.
Launched in May, the fate of the $300-million iZEV program is bound to be a major issue for the automotive industry during the election campaign. The program is part of a larger push by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to ensure all light vehicles sold in Canada are zero-emission vehicles by 2040.
The industry is split on whether incentives are the most effective way to increase EV demand and reduce greenhouse gases.
Incentives for electric vehicles are seen by proponents as a way to boost adoption of the technology while costs remain high and as the nation’s charging infrastructure remains in its infancy. Critics of incentive programs, including industry executives quoted in a recent Automotive News Canada story, argue they often “determine winners and losers” in the market.
In Ontario, Doug Ford’s Conservative government ended that province’s up-to-$14,000 EV rebate program in 2018 shortly after ousting the governing Liberals. The program ceased when the Tories scrapped Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, which funded the EV incentives.
British Columbia and Quebec – which generate the highest number of EV sales across the country – are the only two provinces which continue to offer consumer rebates.
According to Transport Canada, which administers the iZEV program, EV sales totaled 14,000 during the first six months of the year – a 30-per-cent jump over the same period in 2018. Zero-emission vehicles make up about three per cent of the all new light-vehicle sales in the first half of 2019, said Transport Canada.