Ontario aims to propel its leadership in automotive electrification by continuing to attract key industrial investments that will establish a complete electric vehicle and battery supply chain in the region, according to a government official.
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"Quite frankly, we are all in with our chips on electric vehicle production in Ontario," Vic Fedeli, Ontario's minister of economic development, job creation and trade, said in an interview with S&P Global Commodity Insights.
Fedeli said Ontario's government has already worked to bring C$13 billion ($10.36 billion) of investment to the province over the last 18 months that has spurred an industrial transition in support of a growing EV industry.
The investments include a recent commitment announced March 23 by Stellantis and LG Energy Solutions to jointly build Canada's first large-scale EV battery gigafactory in Windsor, Ontario, with production expected to begin in 2024.
"That's historic," Fedeli said. "It is the single largest auto investment in the history of our country."
With recent and forthcoming investments, Ontario has now secured development propositions that span the electric vehicle value chain from "end to end."
"We've got the OEMs covered, we've got the investment in the [Stellantis-LGES] battery manufacturing plant, an investment in green steel [ArcelorMittal Dofasco], and we put millions into a program called the Ontario Automotive Modernization Program."
The O-AMP is a partnership supporting automotive parts makers that are transitioning their operations to supply electric vehicles. The Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network has also been funded by the province's leadership to promote connected and autonomous vehicle manufacturing, Fedeli added.
Fedeli said more related investments in Ontario are expected in the near term.
"We will continue pushing hard to land a second battery factory," he said. "Outside of a second battery plant, we still have a string of EV manufacturing announcements to make in the coming days and weeks."
Battery metals in 'ring of fire'
Fedeli said Ontario has launched a critical minerals strategy to advance the province's mineral mining, refining and cathode production capacity that can domestically supply its burgeoning EV and battery industries.
"Canada is the only country in the Western Hemisphere with all the raw materials," Fedeli said. "And, we know Ontario has everything we need here."
Northern Ontario's "ring of fire" region represents a major focus area for critical mineral sourcing, with the potential to produce cobalt, nickel, copper, platinum and palladium. Fedeli said much of the province's critical minerals strategy has targeted this area.
"We will work to expedite the approvals for mines throughout Northern Ontario and to extract minerals and to process them," Fedeli said. "We also want value-added [capacity], so we are going to push hard in Northern Ontario for precursor and cathode production, but nonetheless it all starts with the minerals."
Fedeli said Ontario is already North America's leading producer of nickel, and the province houses the continent's only cobalt refinery (now owned by Electra Battery Materials, with operations set to restart later this year).
Turnaround for Ontario's auto industry
Fedeli said Ontario's push to build its EV industry under Premier Doug Ford through the "Driving Prosperity" initiative and other policy programs represents a "huge turnaround" for the province's automotive sector.
"Where we were four years ago, the auto sector was on severe decline," he said. "Under the former [provincial] government, we lost 300,000 jobs in Ontario, and so when [our administration] took office, Premier Doug Ford said that we have to reduce the cost of doing business."
Under the current administration, Ontario has reduced workplace insurance premiums without altering benefits, offered a capital cost allowance, enacted "red tape" reduction bills, and lowered the cost of industrial and commercial energy and property tax rates, according to Fedeli.
Ontario's policies have since enticed new automaker EV manufacturing investments in the region from Honda, Ford and General Motors, he added.
"Our job is to ensure that the EVs that are purchased are made right here in Ontario," Fedeli said. "For the automotive OEMs, the batteries, the vehicle parts, the critical minerals and the green steel technology, we're investing taxpayer dollars in every one of those areas."
"We have to invest in the complete supply chain because that's where the jobs are, and that's where 'Driving Prosperity' has done just that."