Despite Canada’s reputation for outdoor beauty, it has, as a country, been somewhat recalcitrant to take action on climate change. Or rather, its government has, at least until recently.
With vast oil reserves, and under the previous government of Steven Harper, there had been little interest in switching to more environmentally responsible energy sources. With a reasonably small population compared to its size and plenty of financial incentives from oil and gas companies, Canada has been disinterested of late in doing anything at all to challenge the status quo. Indeed, Canada seemed for many years to be cheerfully ignoring climate change, but with the change of government there have been increasing signs that Canada is reversing that position.
The latest and most substantial sign is a report, leaked toThe Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s leading news outlets, last week. In it, the Ontario government indicated its intent to introduce a raft of environmentally friendly policies (green housing, green energy and green transport) encompassing over 7 billion Canadian dollars of investment, with funds supplied by the upcoming cap-and-trade system. Within the plan, travel has been singled out as an area requiring significant investment.
Funds for transitioning to lower-carbon transportation are spread widely. Biofuels, for example, are a component of the new policy, with a requirement that all ‘liquid transportation fuels’ reduce their lifetime carbon emissions by 5%.
Over 550 million Canadian dollars is allocated for investment in rail and cycle infrastructure alone.
But there are also some positive investment figures for electric cars and their manufacturers. A massive chunk of funds is allocated to introduce electric busses for schools, cleaning up the twice-daily school run and saving money to boot. Other funds are allocated to encourage companies to use lower carbon trucks. Whilst electric school busses might not seem like a big thing, they may act as a mass introduction to EVs for a vast number of Canadian children; making the noisy diesel & gasoline busses that currently convey them to school seem as archaic as they truly are. Not only that, but at least a few may carry that knowledge into their family homes, encouraging EV take up outside of that school environment.
Handily, the cabinet of Ontario’s Premier Wynne also has some funds allocated for private users. On top of the investments in other areas of transportation there’s also CAD $285 million in EV incentives. The new scheme will, reportedly, include a rebate of up to CAD $14,000 for every EV purchased, and CAD $1000 additionally towards home charging. This is not dissimilar to a multitude of other rebate plans for encouraging EV take up seen across the world. Not revolutionary, but often effective.
Nor is it revolutionary to reduce sales tax on electric vehicles — another component of the plan. What does differ, and positively so, is the intention to encourage take up by low and middle income families with specifically targeted extra subsidies. It seems Canada has learned from other countries plans and tweaked its offering accordingly.
The Globe and Mail report that part of the intention is to get older, potentially more polluting vehicles off the road. And as these older cars are primarily owned – and run – by those least able to replace them, specific extra investment has been planned to assist those who could not otherwise buy EVs.
With free ‘overnight’ electricity for EV charging also in the leaked documents – EVs should be highly desirable to those with lower incomes.
Of course, EVs are good, but not great without the infrastructure to go with them. And the wide-reaching plan also indicates that the province will add more charging stations at government buildings and is considering making the inclusion of EV chargers mandatory on all new builds.
Whilst Canada may have trailed other countries on its support of EVs, Ontario looks set to try to transform that. It has set itself an ambitious target of getting a plug-in car or Hybrid in every multivehicle driveway by 2024 – equivalent to a total around 1.7 million automobiles. Ontario’s government have also identified a need for mass adoption of green energy and heating technologies, and by transforming the way people live, travel, and work perhaps the positive impacts will encourage the transition to a cleaner future across the country. Although many of these technologies require up-front investment, their long term savings – both financial and energy – bring returns far in advance of the outlay. And other Canadian provinces are likely to want to cash in on the long term savings.
Of course, at the moment, all this is theoretical. Whilst all of the policies need to be fine-tuned by the cabinet, with the formal release of policies not due until June, cautious optimism prevails as to the likely outcome. As Wynne’s preamble states:
“We are on the cusp of a once-in-a-lifetime transformation. It’s a transformation of how we look at our planet and the impact we have on it, It’s a transformation that will forever change how we live, work, play and move.”
Let’s hope Ontario and her legislators manage to see that transformation through to the only logical conclusion: cleaner, greener transportation and energy use for all.
Do you think this plan is enough? Should Ontario, and Canada as a whole, be doing more? Or should they be doing something different? Let us know in the Comments below.
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