With less than 100 days until Ontario’s next provincial election, Doug Ford’s incumbent Progressive Conservatives (PCs) are now pitching themselves as champions of the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The government’s “Driving Prosperity” plan — which is at the heart of the province’s economic agenda — intends to make Ontario a juggernaut in EV and battery manufacturing. Additionally, investments have been made to equip Ontario’s ONroute locations with electric vehicle chargers — although interestingly, the money was put up by the federal Liberals — not the province.
Supporting EV manufacturing in Ontario is undoubtedly a good policy choice, as the province is ripe with blue-collar talent and remains a hotspot for auto-related infrastructure. Logistically, it’s a sound decision.
My problem, however, lies in the Conservative’s shrouded view that EVs are not primarily a tool to address climate change, but rather a means to provide cover for their other, highly destructive environmental policies. While Doug Ford speaks of the climate benefits of supporting the EV industry, he does so out of the need to publicly acknowledge the issue of climate change — not out of concern for ecological degradation, of which his government has been more than happy to accelerate.
As the leader of a government that’s waged a nonstop war on Ontario’s greenbelt, climate agenda, and species diversity — Doug Ford understands that environmental voters do not hold the path to his reelection. Pushing unnecessary highways (GTA West Corridor and the Bradford Bypass) through ecologically sensitive lands, egregiously using MZOs to bypass environmental regulation, and attempting to open the greenbelt to development to benefit his party’s donors made sure of that.
Strategists at the consulting firm StrategyCorp suggest that the PCs’ EV pitch is aimed at locking down manufacturing voters in Windsor and Oakville. But by playing up the climate benefits of their EV agenda — despite its disingenuous nature — the PCs are also able to shield themselves (to some extent) from criticism of their environmental policy. This is despite the fact that the government is nowhere close to meeting its climate goals and was condemned by Ontario’s auditor general for its “war” on biodiversity. Since the defeat of Kathleen Wynne in 2018, no new endangered species have been added to the province’s protection list. Meanwhile, all sorts of environmental regulations have been gutted, paving the way for construction and real estate firms to do as they please.
According to Ontario Nature, “those with a vested, short-term economic interest in sprawl development now have free rein to bulldoze, dig up and pave over the habitats of our most vulnerable plants and animals.
The final major giveaway that the Ford government’s pivot on EVs is nothing more than a reelection ploy is that they refuse to re-implement the consumer subsidies they scrapped in 2018. Supporting the supply but not the demand side of the electric vehicle equation is the height of hypocrisy – and evidence of the Conservatives’ true intentions.
The Ontario Liberals have promised to implement an EV rebate of up to $8,000 for vehicles under $55,000. The Green Party has pledged $10,000 in rebates, and the New Democrats have promised unspecified amounts for non-luxury EVs.