Canadians have voted to send the Liberals back to Ottawa with a minority mandate, maintaining the status quo on the handling of COVID-19 and signalling little change for the automotive industry.
Final results for a dozen tight races remain outstanding, but the House of Commons seating chart will remain nearly identical after the five-week campaign that sent voters to the polls Sept. 20.
The limited turnover will let the new minority government refocus on key automotive issues sooner rather than later, said David Adams, president and CEO of the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC), which represents overseas automakers in Canada.
“We’re at least dealing with a known entity, and I suspect the likelihood of a cabinet being appointed a little bit quicker and government getting back to business is likely going to happen more rapidly than it would if we had a change.”
‘NOTHING REALLY CHANGES’
Likewise, Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association said the election was “a bit of a mulligan.”
“We know where this government stood with us five weeks ago. Nothing really changes now.”
With the Liberals poised to form their third government in six years, industry is well acquainted with its approach to automotive. In its latest platform, the party pledged continued support for the $8 billion Net-Zero Accelerator Fund, $800 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and an additional $1.5 billion to expand the federal rebate program for EVs.
But it is the Liberals’ accelerated target for zero emissions vehicle adoption that is at the top of all industry priority lists. The party aims to make ZEVs half of all new light-duty vehicles sales by 2030 and 100 per cent of new light-duty sales by 2035.
Volpe is eager to get started on a roadmap for getting there.
“The quicker we get to it, the quicker we identify what the biggest barriers are and whether we’ve all got the stomach to confront them.”
Brian Kingston, president and CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA), which represents the Detroit Three automakers in Canada, said the latest targets are “very ambitious,” adding that hitting them will require government and industry collaborating closely.
“The biggest barriers to ZEV adoption continue to be the higher price of electric vehicles compared to gas-powered vehicles, as well as concerns with charging. So, with this target, with the new Liberal mandate, we’re going to tackle those barriers aggressively in the coming years and get more Canadians making the switch to electric.”
The shift from gas and diesel will not be limited to the auto sector. Filling lots with EVs is only one part of the equation, said Huw Williams, public affairs lead for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA).
“It’s got to be a whole transition of the electricity grid, the access to charging stations, really how Canadians live in a lot of ways.”
As long as the new minority government recognizes EV adoption is not just a matter of simply putting mandates in place, CADA is prepared to work with Ottawa on the electric transition, Williams added.
The dealers’ association is currently doing just that on another Liberal policy shift introduced in the 2021 budget and reiterated in the party’s election platform.
Consultations are set to wrap up at the end of this month on the proposed luxury tax on vehicles costing more than $100,000. Williams said the government has been receptive to certain adjustments that make the tax less punitive for buyers. Ottawa is aiming to enact the new luxury tax in January.
Sidelined during the election, government backing for Stellantis and General Motors investments in Ontario appear imminent as well.
“Things I suspect will move very, very quickly now that the election is over,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said, adding he anticipates both investments to be announced before the end of the year.
Longer term, Dias is optimistic about further backing for Canadian EV and battery production. He hopes to see the Liberals and NDP forge a formal partnership to help the country economy recover from the pandemic.
“Any party that tries to bring down the government, or if the government tries to have another snap election, they will get punished at the polls and I think everybody knows that,” Dias said. “So, I think we’re in for some stability here in Canada and I think that’s good for the auto industry.”
As of late Tuesday, the Liberals are leading or elected in 158 ridings, three more than they held when Parliament was dissolved Aug. 15. The Conservatives’ tentative seat count of 119 is unchanged from the end of the previous session, ensuring the party remains the official opposition. The Bloc Québécois and the New Democrats are poised to make small gains, increasing the size of their respective caucuses to 34 and 25 seats. The Green Party has also locked in a pair of MPs, matching its tally prior to the election. Despite grabbing roughly five per cent of the popular vote, the People’s Party will not earn a place in Ottawa.