Ontario to ramp up electric vehicle production, but no rebates on sales yet

During a stop in Guelph on Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford said the province intends to partner with the auto sector on new mandates for hybrid and battery electric vehicles, establish a battery assembly plant and increase Ontario-made auto-part exports.

'We're putting billions and billions of dollars into the electric vehicle market,' Premier Ford says

Premier Doug Ford, second from right, and Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli, right, visited Linamar in Guelph on Wednesday to announce the second phase of Ontario's 'driving prosperity' auto industry strategy. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Ontario wants to produce 400,000 electric and hybrid cars by 2030, but to do so, Premier Doug Ford says there's a need for more workers.

Ford and Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli toured auto-parts manufacturer Linamar in Guelph on Wednesday before announcing Phase 2 of the government's "driving prosperity" auto manufacturing strategy.

Fedeli said the province will partner with the industry to achieve four goals:

  1. Reposition vehicle and parts production for electric vehicles.
  2. Establish and support an electric battery supply chain ecosystem.
  3. Innovate in terms of development.
  4. Invest in auto workers. 

"Phase 2 will allow our province to leverage our critical mineral wealth in Ontario's north, supporting a broader supply chain that includes mining and the refining of those minerals required for electric vehicle batteries. And that means good jobs for skilled Ontario workers," Fedeli said.

"These commitments will continue to lay the foundation to ensure that Ontario's auto sector is successful, highly competitive, ripe for new investment and ready to meet the global demand."

Ford called the auto industry the "cornerstone of well-paying jobs" in the province and said as the industry shifts gears to meet consumer demand for electric vehicles, the government "must ensure our manufacturing sector keeps pace."

"We have the supply chain in place. We have the geographic advantages and we're blessed with the mineral resources to make the batteries that these in-demand new cars will need. In addition, we have the greatest manufacturing workforce anywhere on the planet," he said.

"Ontario is the number one place in the world to build the cars and trucks of the future."

Announcement 'encouraging' but not enough: Green leader

Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner issued a news release Wednesday morning in which he criticized the Ford government's "aversion to electric vehicles has contributed significant economic damage for Ontario and set the province backwards as the world embraces the green economy."

Schreiner said when they were elected, the Progressive Conservatives stopped plans for electric vehicle charging stations in the province and Ford is still opposed to rebates for people buying electric vehicles.

Although Schreiner called Wednesday's announcement "encouraging," he said the premier "remains out of touch with what Ontarians need in order to transition to electric vehicles."

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Ford spoke to reporters during the Linamar stop in Guelph. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

When asked whether the government would consider offering rebates for electric vehicles, Ford said not yet.

"Let's see how the market dictates. We're putting billions and billions of dollars into the electric vehicle market."

Fedeli said the province has been focused on the supply side of the industry.

"We want to put people to work. We want good, well-paying jobs for their families. And that means also that we're involving the critical minerals sector from the North. So now, all of Ontario will be able to have an important part of the whole electric vehicle transformation."

Workers needed

Ford said the province is prepared to invest in hospitals, long-term care homes and local infrastructure to attract workers to Ontario to work in these jobs.

The Linamar facility where Ford made the announcement had a sign in front advertising: "Interviews, walk-in Wednesdays, $1,500 signing bonus."

When asked what the government is doing to help fill jobs currently vacant and where employers may be struggling to hire people, Ford admitted "we just need bodies." He said he had discussed the need for workers with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday evening, ahead of Trudeau's trip to the U.S. where he'll speak with President Joe Biden and congressional leaders in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

A sign in front of a Linamar facility advertises that potential workers could walk-in to get an interview on Wednesdays and a signing bonus would be offered. Ford says there is a need for more workers to fill vacancies in Ontario's auto industry. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

"We're all feeling the crunch right now, and as [Linamar CEO] Linda [Hasenfratz] and I and [Fedeli] were talking before we came in, it's not just skilled workers, it's even unskilled," Ford said.

"Please come to Ontario. We're working with the federal government. We're ramping up immigration as much as we possibly can. That's the federal jurisdiction.

"I'm hearing it absolutely everywhere I go in the province, no matter small, medium or large companies. We need people and the people that are healthy mind, healthy body, we need you to get out there and get gainful employment."

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