The Ontario government's recent move to boost rebates for electric vehicles is under fire, amid revelations that a senior Liberal staffer has been hired by electric car-maker Tesla.
Ian Myrans left his post as director of policy to Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray and joined Tesla this month. At about the same time, the government announced it was removing caps on its electric vehicle incentive program that had previously prevented buyers of Tesla models from getting the maximum rebate.
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"This certainly doesn't pass the smell test," deputy PC Leader Steve Clark said Thursday during Question Period. "Was this just a coincidence?"
"You've got someone leaving the minister's office and going to a company that is now benefiting from these decisions," PC Leader Patrick Brown told reporters at the Legislature.
The Wynne government introduced a cap on electric vehicle rebates last year. It meant that buyers of vehicles costing more than $75,000 could receive a maximum subsidy of $3,000.
Earlier this month, the government tweaked the rules for electric cars costing $75,000 to $150,000. It means such vehicles as the Tesla Roadster are now eligible for rebates of up to $14,000.
Murray denied any connection between the change in policy and Myrans's move to join Tesla.
"This is someone who followed all the rules," Murray told reporters at Queen's Park, calling Myrans "a man of immense character and great integrity."
"As soon as he was approached about a job possibility, he immediately went to the [provincial] integrity commissioner to have those discussions before anything else happened," Murray said.
He said the policy change was made by the Ministry of Transportation, and it was decided before Myrans was approached to work for Tesla.
The Wynne government first came under pressure for giving incentives for luxury electric vehicles when CBC News revealed taxpayers had handed $770,000 in subsidies to buyers of vehicles costing more than $100,000.
"If we're talking about encouraging an average family to buy a Chevy Volt instead of a non-electric vehicle then sure, I think that makes a lot of sense," NDP leader Andrea Horwath said Thursday. "But when you're talking about millionaires and luxury vehicles it makes no sense whatsoever. I don't think people in Ontario would support that type of rebate, it's excessive."
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca wouldn't confirm if Tesla models are the only new vehicles to which the rebate change applies.
"I'm not personally aware of the price point of every single vehicle offered by every single auto manufacturer," he said. But he defended the principle behind the rebates.
"It is about giving people more of an opportunity to enter this particular segment of the market, as that segment of the market is growing, because I think there's a collective understanding we need to do more to fight climate change, particularly in the transportation area."