With less than 10 days until Ontario’s next provincial election, Doug Ford’s incumbent conservatives are now pitching themselves as champions of the electric vehicle (EV) industry.
The government’s “Driving Prosperity” plan – which is at the heart of the province’s economic agenda – intends to make Ontario a juggernaut in EV and battery manufacturing. Additionally, investments have been made to equip Ontario’s ONroute locations with electric chargers – although interestingly, the money was put up by the federal Liberals – not the province.
Supporting EV manufacturing in Ontario is undoubtedly a good policy choice, as the province is ripe with blue-collar talent and remains a hotspot for auto-related infrastructure. Logistically, it’s a sound decision.
My problem, however, lies in the Conservative Party’s shrouded view that EVs are not a tool to address climate change, but rather a means to provide cover for their other, highly destructive environmental policies. While Doug Ford speaks of the climate benefits of supporting the EV industry, he does so out of a need to publicly acknowledge the issue of climate change – not out of concern for ecological degradation, of which his government has been more than happy to speed up.
Doug Ford – the leader of a government that’s waged a nonstop war on Ontario’s greenbelt, climate agenda, and species diversity – understands that environmental voters do not hold the key to his reelection. Pushing unnecessary highways (GTA West Corridor and the Bradford Bypass) through ecologically sensitive wetlands, egregiously using MZOs to bypass environmental regulation, and attempting to open the greenbelt to development to benefit his party’s donors made sure of that.
Strategists at the consulting firm StrategyCorp suggest that the Progressive Conservative’s (PCs) EV pitch is aimed at locking down manufacturing voters in Windsor and Oakville. But by playing up the climate benefits of their EV agenda – despite its disingenuous nature – the PCs can shield themselves (to some extent) from criticism of their environmental policy.
This is despite the fact that the government is nowhere close to meeting its climate goals and was condemned by Ontario’s auditor general for its war on endangered species. Meanwhile, all sorts of environmental regulations have been gutted, paving the way for construction and real estate firms to do as they please.
According to Kelsey Scarfone, program manager for Environmental Defence, “those with a vested, short-term economic interest in sprawl development now have free rein to bulldoze, dig up and pave over the habitats of our most vulnerable plants and animals.
The Ford government’s environmental policy has been so irresponsible that the federal government has stepped in, including saving Ontario’s tree planting program and reassessing the Highway 413 proposal. Environmental Defence estimates that future vehicles using the highway will emit up to 700,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions annually – more than the entire City of Toronto produced in 2018.
The final major giveaway that the Ford government’s pivot on EVs is nothing more than a re-election ploy is that they refuse to re-implement the consumer incentives they scrapped in 2018. Supporting the supply but not the demand side of the electric vehicle equation is the height of hypocrisy – and evidence of the Conservative’s true intentions.
The Ontario Liberals are promising to implement an EV rebate of up to $8,000 for vehicles under $55,000. The Green Party has pledged $10,000 in rebates, and the New Democrats have promised unspecified amounts for non-luxury EVs.