Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced nearly $132 million in provincial funding for Honda Canada to retool its Alliston auto plant to make hybrid vehicles.
In a campaign-esque announcement on the floor of the automaker’s facility, Ford promised the money will support economic development and jobs throughout the province.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also on hand, announcing a matching $131.6-million contribution from Ottawa to go toward Honda’s $1.4-billion upgrade.
The automaker wants to completely transition to zero-emission vehicles by 2040 and has put billions into retooling Ontario plants to make hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs). The Alliston plant will build both gas-powered and hybrid 2023 CR-Vs.
Touting Ontario as the place to manufacture “the cars of the future,” Ford focused his remarks on the economic potential of the investment, while other politicians, including Trudeau, heralded Honda’s transition to making hybrids and EVs as a means to cutting pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario at 35 per cent. A transportation plan released by the province last week estimated that 90 per cent of the greenhouse gas emission reductions touted in the plan would be due to increased uptake of EVs.
But it’s not clear how the province intends to make that happen. Shortly after being elected in 2018, the Ford government cancelled a number of programs intended to encourage the transition to EVs, including buyer incentives, and went so far as to remove car-charging infrastructure that was already installed. It also cancelled the Green Commercial Vehicle Program that helped large diesel trucks switch to electric or install emission-cutting mechanisms.
A 2019 audit of the province’s climate change plan, intended to direct a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over 2005 levels by 2030, found that the government was estimating reductions from a more than 3,000 per cent increase in EV use — projected to occur due to the programs it had just scrapped.
A November 2021 followup showed Ontario had only fully implemented 27 per cent of the audit’s recommendations and had made little or no progress on half. It had, however, revised its reduction estimates for EVs downward to a “business as usual” forecast.
The Ontario NDP has pledged to make every car sold in Ontario electric by 2035, a goal the federal government has also set for Canada. In a tweet Wednesday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called Honda’s announcement “great news for good-paying jobs, our province and our climate… It’s always a smart choice to invest in Ontario jobs and workers.”
#Ford, #Trudeau announce investment in Alliston Honda plant for hybrids, but Ford still mum on buyer incentive programs. #ONpoli #EVs
The Ford government has done something of an about-face in recent months, announcing its support for installing EV charging infrastructure along major Ontario highways, investing in EV manufacturing and establishing a Transportation Electrification Council to gather advice on transitioning to EVs.
In Alliston, Ford didn’t answer a reporter’s question about whether he would reinstate buyer incentive programs that help offset the higher costs of EVs or, if not, how he planned to increase use.
A press secretary for Environment Minister David Piccini said Tuesday that the province “recognizes the role of low-carbon vehicles in transitioning to a sustainable low-carbon transportation system and a clean-growth economy and is supporting the uptake of EVs in many ways.”
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner lambasted Ford in a statement Wednesday for his “refusal” to make EVs more affordable and accessible. The party took credit for the government’s investment in EV manufacturing, citing “years of Green pressure.”
“But without a real plan to make EVs more affordable and accessible, driving electric will remain out of reach for far too many Ontario families.”