By Rob Ferguson
Ontario is getting ready to hit the brakes on rebates of up to $14,000 for motorists buying electric vehicles like the new Honda Clarity and Chrysler Pacifica hybrid.
The purchase incentives, which were established years ago by the recently defeated Liberal government to kick-start a shift to low-emission cars, have been funded in part by the cap-and-trade program the incoming Progressive Conservatives are scrapping.
“Doug Ford has been clear that he is cancelling cap and trade and Kathleen Wynne’s climate change action plan,” Jeff Silverstein, spokesman for the premier-designate, said Wednesday when asked about the future of the incentives.
Ford’s PC government, the first in 15 years, will be sworn in June 29.
No date has been publicly set for a phase-out of the vehicle rebate program, which has come under criticism in some quarters for being one of the most generous in North America.
It applies to about 20 electric and hydrogen-fuelled models from 14 automakers such as Tesla, General Motors, BMW and Ford, and was credited with increasing the sale of those vehicles by 120 per cent last year.
Revamped in 2016 as part of Premier Wynne’s five-year climate change action plan, the program included subsidies for home-based vehicle charging stations. Since 2010, motorists have shared more than $175 million in vehicle incentives alone, according to the Ministry of Transportation.
“I think it’s going to hurt significantly,” Keith Brooks, programs manager at the lobby group Environmental Defence, said of the impending cancellation.
“We’re not going to need incentives forever but we need them now,” he added, until automakers can further narrow the price gap between electric-powered vehicles and traditional automobiles.
“You have to increase the attractiveness,” Brooks said.
Several automakers declined to comment but Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association president Mark Nantais said the end of the program will be a setback given that automobiles are a major source of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
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“Electric vehicles are almost a necessity for the industry,” he told the Star. “We’d love to have some discussions about this.”
Nantais said there are “very specific numbers we have to reach in terms of GHG reductions. We have to take vehicles and double the fuel economy or cut by half the GHG emissions by 2025.”
Incentives have nudged electric vehicle sales to the point where the buyers are no longer just “early adopters” of the fast-growing technology, Nantais said.
“Now we’re getting to the area where the more general population, who have to endure the long and congested commutes in the GTA and other areas, can drive a vehicle that is a very green vehicle.”
Under the Liberal government, Ontario pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 37 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2030.
Ford has drawn criticism that he has no plan to fight climate change after he signalled last Friday that he will axe Wynne’s cap-and-trade program, which put a ceiling and a price on greenhouse gas emissions and raised $1.9 billion a year, .
The premier-designate has said he believes cap and trade is a cash grab that harms Ontario’s competitiveness and has promised to cut gasoline taxes by 10 cents a litre.
On Tuesday, he shuttered the Green Ontario Fund that provided homeowners, renters and businesses with smart thermostats, energy-efficient windows and other help to reduce hydro bills and fight climate change. It was funded by cap-and-trade revenues.