Québec Solidaire wants to ban sale of all gas-powered cars by 2030

Québec Solidaire presented an ambitious campaign promise Tuesday that would ban the sale of all gas-powered consumer vehicles in Quebec by 2030, and require all cars in the province to be 100 per cent electric by 2050.

All cars in the province would also need to be 100 per cent electric by 2050 under party's plan

Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Massé (centre) announced the measures as part of the party's wider commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions. (Radio-Canada)

A Québec Solidaire government would ban the sale of gas-powered consumer vehicles in Quebec by 2030, with all cars in the province required to be 100 per cent electric by 2050.

The push in favour of electric vehicles is one element of the party's wider commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions. It also wants to spend billions on public transit infrastructure, reduce transit fares by half, and ban new highway construction.

Co-spokesperson Manon Massé made the announcement in Lafontaine Park on Tuesday while Montreal was under a heat warning.

She said it was the right time to be talking about addressing climate change.

"We just lived the hottest July in history, and that's just the trailer for the movie that's yet to come," Massé said.

Incentives would increase right away

Québec Solidaire's plan would immediately increase government cash incentives to buy electric vehicles, while imposing additional taxes on gas-powered vehicles. 

The province currently offers an $8,000 cash rebate for people who purchase electric vehicles.

The party's plan would immediately boost government cash incentives to buy electric vehicles, while imposing new taxes on gas-powered vehicles. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

People living in rural areas with little or no public transit, families with children and lower income people would receive more generous incentives.

In 2030, the sale of gas-powered vehicles in Quebec would be prohibited, with only electric and hybrid vehicles allowed to be sold. 

By 2040, only electric vehicles would be permitted for sale in the province, and by 2050, all personal vehicles on Quebec roads would be required to be 100 per cent electric.

Transport trucks, delivery vehicles and tourist vehicles would be exempt.

Proposal deemed 'too radical' by opponent

Other Quebec party leaders on the campaign trail Tuesday criticized the plan.

"By 2030? I don't think that's realistic," said CAQ Leader François Legault.

The leaders of Quebec's three other main parties all criticized the Québec Solidaire plan, calling it radical, unrealistic, and punitive. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

"I support the idea of electrifying transport, but let's not punish drivers for not choosing what we like. I'm not at war with drivers," Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said.

Couillard said educating consumers about the advantages of electric vehicles and letting them make up their own minds is a better approach.

He also pointed out that farmers and forestry workers often rely on pickup trucks, and that reliable pickup trucks that are 100 per cent electric likely won't be widely available by 2030.

PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée said there simply won't be enough electric vehicles available at dealerships to meet the demand.

"It's like you're punishing people for not buying something that's not available," Lisée said.

"It's too radical. It's not the direction we should be going," he said.

Massé brushed off the concerns, however.

"Of course it's radical! We need it! It's very important," she said.

Massé said she believes the industry is headed in this direction anyway, and that Quebec has the opportunity to be a world leader.

"If the rest of Canada isn't ready for that, if the United States isn't ready for that, at least Quebec will be ready," she said.

Advocacy group sees problems

George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Association, a non-profit that defends consumers in the automobile market, said he was glad that Québec Solidaire was opening a discussion on greener transportation.

However, he said the party's plan has serious flaws, and Quebec's road network is too intertwined with other jurisdictions for the province to go it alone.

"Ideally if we had a strategy, it would be national, not province by province. Vehicles are produced in a continental economy," Iny said.

He said government cash incentives for fuel-efficient vehicles are expensive and inefficient — simply increasing the tax on gasoline would be a far more effective, if politically unpopular, way of reducing emissions.

Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-François Lisée, pictured last weekend in Rosemont, said Québec Solidaire's plan was 'too radical.' (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Iny also said there's a risk in assuming that electric vehicles will be the best option for the environment 20 or 30 years from now.

"The government shouldn't be picking the technology winners and losers. By 2050 it may well be that all vehicles are electric, but we may well have hydrogen fuel, or some other type of hybrid," he said.

"Companies like Toyota and BMW have said electric power won't be enough."

Iny said there's a simpler solution that could be implemented faster.

Using digital technology to simplify and encourage carpooling would reduce emissions more quickly and effectively, he said.

"Vehicles on the road now are grossly underutilized. The occupancy rate of a vehicle at rush hour is like 20 per cent.  There's five seats in it and one person per vehicle," he said.

The Parti Québecois promised earlier this week to help fund companies develop apps to encourage carpooling, and then compensate drivers and passengers who use the system.


Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.