Last week, Ontario’s Conservative government unveiled a new, EV-focused automotive strategy. Today, the provincial Liberal party countered with a plan to restore an $8,000 purchase incentive for new EVs if it forms government after the vote next June

ONTARIO’S NEXT PROVINCIAL ELECTION is still more than six months away, but electric vehicle policy is already shaping up to be a critical issue in the upcoming campaign.

Less than a week after the current government unveiled the latest phase of its auto strategy, setting goals that include more EV assembly and battery cell manufacturing, provincial Liberal party leader Steven Del Duca today announced that his party will bring in an $8,000 incentive on the purchase or lease of eligible new electric vehicles if it wins the election next June.

“Creating a new electric vehicle incentive program is a win-win for Ontario families,” said Del Duca in a press release. “It will advance the fight against climate change, create good paying jobs and deliver needed pocketbook relief.”

The Liberal platform also includes a commitment to provide a $1,500 rebate on the purchase of home EV charging equipment.

Incentive scrapped in 2018

In 2018, when the current Conservative government took power in Ontario, it scrapped an existing EV buyer incentive program and cancelled funding for EV chargers. Since then, Premier Doug Ford has dismissed any talk of reinstating those programs, calling purchase rebates subsidies “for millionaires.”

Compared to provinces with EV purchase incentives — most notably British Columbia and Quebec — sales of electric vehicles in Ontario are lagging. In the third quarter of 2021, according to data from IHS Markit, electric vehicles represented 3.1 per cent of new vehicle registrations in Ontario, compared to 13 per cent in B.C., which has a $3,000 purchase rebate, and 9.9 per cent in Quebec, where the rebate is $8,000 — the same amount proposed in the new Ontario Liberal plan.

Ontario’s sales also trail the national average, which was 5.3 per cent in the third quarter.

The proposed Liberal incentive plan mirrors Transport Canada’s thresholds for the current federal EV purchase rebate — up to $55,000 for vehicles with six seats or less, and up to $60,000 for those with seven or more seats.

NDP and Greens in sync

Ontario’s other two provincial parties — the New Democratic Party, which is the official opposition, and the Green Party of Ontario — also have strong electric vehicle policies in their existing environmental platforms.

The NDP plan includes setting a province-wide ZEV sales target of 15 per cent by 2025, rising to 45 per cent by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2035. To get there, it says its plan will include “strong incentives” for zero-emission vehicles, with particular focus on those made in Canada, but no dollar figure has been released at this time.

The Greens, meanwhile, pledge to “increase access to electric vehicles (two-wheeled or more) and make them less expensive than fossil fuel powered vehicles, through feebates, rental systems, financing, and a zero emission vehicles mandate.”

Both the NDP and the Green Party also have an extensive set of proposals to boost the installation of EV charging infrastructure at public buildings, private homes and multi-unit buildings, workplaces and on highways, include provisions to revise building codes to make EV charging a priority in most new construction.

Of course, with the election not scheduled until next June, it’s possible every party’s EV-related policies will evolve. Last week, for example, during the unveiling of his government’s new auto strategy, Premier Ford seemed to change his tone slightly on the topic of purchase incentives, saying “let’s see how the market dictates.”

This article was originally published by Electric Autonomy Canada.