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Canadian feds seek provincial buy-in for plan to boost electric vehicle use


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Canadian feds seek provincial buy-in for plan to boost electric vehicle use

Canada's federal government is seeking support from provincial transportation ministers for its goal to eliminate sales of all but zero-emitting vehicles by 2040.

At a Jan. 21 meeting in Montreal, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau asked his provincial counterparts to back a federal plan to have non-combustion-powered vehicles make up 10% of national sales by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

The "discussion was a constructive, honest conversation, but we were unfortunately not able to settle on a strategy in this sense," Delphine Denis, Garneau's media relations manager, said in an email. The governments will now work to determine next steps — and potential federal actions — to address some of the concerns raised at the meeting, Denis said.

Increased use of electric vehicles is one part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's plan to mitigate climate change. Since the proposal was introduced, a series of provincial elections has seen a change in sentiment from some parts of the country. "The political landscape is different than when we started the conversation over a year ago," Denis said. "There are six new ministers at the table today, and some raised concerns that the distinct regional characteristics of their respective provinces and territories make it difficult to commit to our robust goals."

Several provinces in Canada own electricity utilities that produce large amounts of hydroelectric power, making them more amenable to electric vehicle use. Hydro-Québec, Manitoba Hydro and BC Hydro and Power Authority all promote electric vehicles as an inexpensive alternative to combustion power because of low electricity rates. British Columbia has already introduced a plan that would eliminate the sale of non-zero-emitting light vehicles by 2040.

Other provinces, meanwhile, have spurned the federal climate plan. Ontario, Canada's most-populous province, axed a subsidy of as much as C$14,000 for electric vehicles in the wake of the election of right-leaning Premier Doug Ford in 2018. Ontario has also joined provinces including Saskatchewan in a court challenge to a planned federal carbon levy.

The federal proposal drew praise from environmental advocates. "While the federal government's targets ... may sound ambitious, the reality is they are very achievable — and in line with targets already established in Quebec and B.C.," Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada, a British Columbia environmental think thank, said in an email.