Canadian Manufacturing

Environment Minister says mandate to enforce EV sales is needed

Canadians bought more electric vehicles in the last two years than the previous eight combined, but still only three per cent of new cars registered were battery-electric or plug-in hybrids.

December 10, 2021  The Canadian Press

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says he wants a national mandate that would force auto dealers to sell a certain number of electric vehicles to be in place by the end of next year.

Road transportation accounts for one-fifth of Canada’s total greenhouse-gas emissions. As Canada charts a path to net zero by 2050, eliminating carbon dioxide from passenger cars is a big part of the process.

The federal government wants half of all new passenger cars sold in Canada to be zero-emission vehicles by 2030, and reach 100 per cent by 2035.

Canadians bought more electric vehicles in the last two years than the previous eight combined, but still only three per cent of new cars registered were battery-electric or plug-in hybrids.

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The Liberals promised during the election campaign to bring in a sales mandate to meet those goals. Guilbeault said he wants that to happen by the end of 2022, or early 2023 at the latest.

“This (mandate) will not come into effect in the next few months but it will come into effect very soon,” he said. “We’re at three, maybe four per cent. We have to get the 50 (per cent). It’s a lot of heavy lifting.”

Guilbeault launched consultations on how to develop that mandate this fall. A new discussion paper for those meetings seeks input on how the mandate should work, the effect on the Canadian auto industry, and whether there should be an interim target before 2030.

Growth in electric vehicles has been swift in the last few years, but almost entirely in the two provinces that already have a provincial sales mandate. Quebec began enforcing sales quotas for electric vehicles in 2018 and British Columbia followed in 2020.

Three in four new electric vehicles registered in Canada in 2020 were in B.C. and Quebec. Ontario, which had a rebate until 2018, accounted for 19 per cent. The rest of Canada accounted for less than five per cent.

Until recently, Quebec and B.C. were also the only provinces with a rebate program that cut the cost of a new electric vehicle. Yukon, Northwest Territories and all four Atlantic provinces introduced them in the last 18 months.

Guilbeault said in Quebec and B.C., the provincial mandates immediately opened up both vehicle availability and options. Carmakers introduced new models and shifted supplies to those provinces to avoid the $5,000 penalty for every credit they were short of meeting the quota.

Guilbeault said if Canada does not move swiftly to push electric-vehicle sales and become a major part of the global supply chains, it would still eventually end up with electric cars on the road. But it would not get the big economic benefits that can come with them.


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