Ottawa is also providing $500 million for plant upgrades; retooling is scheduled for 2024, EV production to start in 2025

Editor’s Note: Our original story below was published hours before news of a deal on a three-year contract between Ford Canada and Unifor, the union representing Canadian autoworkers, was confirmed. Here are key highlights of the agreement, which workers will vote on Sept. 27:

  • Ford has agreed to build five electric vehicles at its Oakville, Ont., factory, the first starting in 2025, the fifth by 2028
  • A portion of Ford’s $1.98-billion investment will be spent on its two engine assembly plants in Windsor
  • Unifor president Jerry Dias, who has been pushing all the major automakers hard to make EV commitments in Canada, calls the agreement a “home run”

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS told Ford Motor Co. that “it is willing to do what it takes to bring electric vehicle production to Ontario,” according to a story published Sunday by the Toronto Star.

What “it takes” includes an offer to invest up to $500 million to finance a switchover to electric vehicle production at Ford’s assembly plant in Oakville, Ont., the Star reports.

The news comes with a Monday midnight deadline looming in negotiations on a new contract between Ford and Unifor, the union representing Canada’s autoworkers.

It also comes just days before the Liberal government will present a new Speech from the Throne, laying out a fresh legislative agenda that is expected to include a range of investments and policy incentives to boost EV sales and the rate of EV adoption.

Automakers need to commit

Unifor, led by national president Jerry Dias, has been arguing for some time that leading auto manufacturers need to commit to bringing EV manufacturing to Canada.

While Canada currently produces about 2 million vehicles annually, ranking 12th in the world, EVs make up just 0.4 per cent of that total.

Dias, speaking at a conference hosted by Electric Mobility Canada in July, called on the government to do more “to utilize our manufacturing footprint.”

While EVs currently make up only about three per cent of sales in Canada, “the decisions have to be made today,” said Dias. “Without an active [government] strategy” the industry — which once ranked fourth globally in total vehicle production — will continue to decline.

Dias’ remarks echoed the findings of a report on the future of Canada’s auto sector published last spring by the Pembina Institute and the International Council on Clean Transportation, covered exclusively at the time by Electric Autonomy Canada.

That report noted that of all the EV models global automakers have stated they will start producing in North America between 2020 and 2025 — investments totalling US$300 billion — none are earmarked for Canada.

Federal minister reaches out

According to the Star report, federal Industry Minister Navdeep Bains recently wrote a letter to Ford Canada president and CEO Dean Stonely, saying the choice to dedicate the Oakville plant to EV production would show “alignment between Ford’s commercial priorities and Canada’s commitment to sustainable growth.”

The Star also reports that Dias says he is not aware of the federal offer. A spokesperson for Minister Bains also declined direct comment.

However, just last week, Bains bylined an article in Policy Options arguing that Canada has the potential to be a leader in the battery supply chain for electric vehicles. In that piece, Bains wrote: “The opportunity for Canada to be a leader in electric transportation is enormous.”

Getting an EV production commitment from Ford — which is currently bringing electric versions of its top-selling F-150 pickup truck to market, as well as a new Mustang EV — would be a critical step in helping to make that opportunity a reality.

This article was originally published on Sept. 21, 2020, on the Electric Autonomy Canada website.