Toronto

Doug Ford says he won't give Ontarians rebates to buy electric vehicles, even though sales are lagging

While Ontario’s electric vehicle sales are lagging behind other Canadian provinces, Premier Doug Ford is dismissing the idea of bringing back a rebate to get more people to buy them.

B.C., Quebec both have substantially higher rates of electric vehicle sales, report says

Electric vehicle sales in Ontario lag behind other provinces that offer incentives, a report says. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Premier Doug Ford is dismissing the idea of bringing back a rebate to encourage Ontarians to buy more electric vehicles, even though the province is lagging behind much of the country in sales.

"I'm not going to give rebates to guys that are buying $100,000 cars — millionaires," he said Wednesday, even though his own government says it's counting on rising sales of those electric vehicles (EVs) to help bring down greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2018, Ford's government cancelled the Electric and Hydrogen Vehicle Incentive Program brought in by the Liberals under Kathleen Wynne.

The Progressive Conservatives justified the move as a cost-cutting measure. It was just one of several changes they made to environmental policies since taking power. The PCs, however, insist they're serious about the environment and fighting climate change, and on Wednesday, Ford highlighted his government's commitment to manufacturing EVs and battery production

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government won't offer incentives to 'millionaires' who want to buy $100,000 electric cars. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

But now, a report from market analytics firm IHS Markit shows electric vehicle sales in Ontario were far behind that of other provinces offering incentives in the third quarter of 2021. 

Here's how Ontario compares to other provinces in the percentage of car sales taken up by EVs, according to the report:

  • B.C.: 13 per cent.
  • Quebec: 9.9 per cent.
  • Yukon: 4.7 per cent.
  • P.E.I.: 4.1 per cent.
  • Ontario: three per cent.

Municipally, Vancouver's adoption rate was 15.6 per cent, with Montreal following at 10.9 per cent. Toronto sat at four per cent. 

EV adoption 'won't just happen by itself,' advocate says 

The Progressive Conservatives say EV adoption is part of their plan to reduce emissions and reach the 2030 targets laid out in the Paris accord, the international treaty to fight climate change adopted in 2015. 

The Ford government's own Made in Ontario Environment Plan, released in 2018, projected "low carbon vehicle uptake" would account for 16 per cent (or a sixth) of the province's emissions reductions.

But at least one advocate says the province can't get there without offering incentives.  

Plug'n Drive CEO Cara Clairman hopes the provincial government will go back to providing incentives for people to buy EVs. (Submitted by Cara Clairman)

"You just have to look at the stats to see the difference it makes," said Cara Clairman, president of Plug'n Drive, a non-profit organization committed to "accelerating electric vehicle adoption in order to maximize their environmental and economic benefits," according to its website. Clairman has been driving electric cars for a decade and has benefited from provincial rebates in the past. 

"There's an assumption we're going to have all this EV adoption. The province isn't doing anything to make that happen," she said.

"It won't just happen by itself." 

Electric vehicles account for 16 per cent of Ontario's emissions reduction targets. (Government of Ontario)

The province's EV target is a lofty goal, according to a 2019 report on the environment released by Ontario's auditor general. The report said the province assumed there would be 1.3 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and it pointed out that would be a "more than 3,000 per cent increase" from the 41,000 electric cars registered in Ontario in 2019. 

Following the cancellation of the rebate program, sales of EVs dropped by 50 per cent in Ontario. 

EV manufacturing

"The last time I checked my bank account, I'm far from being a millionaire," said Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, reacting to Ford's comments. 

"If Doug Ford was serious about making life more affordable … when it comes to transportation, we'd rapidly be supporting people to buy electric vehicles." 

Both the NDP and Green Party have released environmental platforms ahead of the June election detailing sales targets for electric vehicles by 2030, as well as incentives for buying them. The Liberals said they would restore incentives. 

Meanwhile, Clairman said the Ford government's plans for EV manufacturing and battery production are "really significant," but she added they will be a long time coming. 

"If you agree we're in a climate emergency, we can't wait until that happens," she said. 

"We need to be starting now." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Xing is a journalist by trade and a historian by degree. She's also a creative writer, photographer and traveller. Email her at Lisa.Xing@cbc.ca.

With files from Mike Crawley

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