LAKEFIELD — Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath outlined her party’s plan for a zero-emissions electric vehicle strategy in Lakefield on Wednesday ahead of the provincial election in June.
“As we’re getting through the last couple of miles of COVID-19, there is another crisis that was facing us before and it’s a crisis that continues to face us right now, and, of course, that’s the climate crisis,” Horwath told reporters outside the home of Bill Bruesch, the Kawartha chapter lead of the Electric Vehicle Society.
Calling it the “most comprehensive electric vehicle strategy that has ever been put together in Ontario,” Horwath said an NDP government would “invest in the retooling of auto plants in the province to design and manufacture electric vehicles, introduce world-leading incentives to help people buy electric cars, require charging stations to come standard in all new homes and give families $600 to install a charging station at home.”
The plan, part of the NDP’s Green New Democratic Deal, would also create “thousands and thousands of jobs” in the province, she added.
Under the strategy, Horwath said that by 2035 all new vehicle sales in Ontario would be zero-emissions cars and trucks, and that all transit fleets would get provincial support to be electrified by 2040.
Horwath criticized Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario Progressive Conservative government’s approach to electrical vehicles.
“Unfortunately, what we have in our province is a premier who came into office and was a warrior against the environment. (Ford) started dragging us backwards almost immediately and that had significant results. This was a premier who was literally tearing out charging stations in Ontario when he got elected,” Horwath said.
“(Ford) also got rid of the incentive program for the purchase of electric vehicles.”
Ford has still gone on the record asserting his support for the electrical vehicle industry. Last year, both the provincial and federal governments made multi-million-dollar investments to help turn Ford Motor Co.’s Oakville plant into an electric vehicle production centre.
“It’s time for a government that encourages people and supports people in their switch to electric vehicles,” Horwath said, pledging to reinstate an incentive program to drive up sales of electric vehicles provincially.
Locally, Horwath said families and residents have been doing their part to fight climate change.
Horwath noted that last week, Trent University announced a partnership to tackle energy efficiency upgrades, including a battery energy storage system on campus and a proposed electric vehicle charging station.
She also lauded the efforts of Peterborough residents who have planted 11,275 trees and plants through Otonabee Conservation’s tree seedling sales program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and pointed out that the City of Peterborough has been examining new avenues for electric transportation.
In a private, closed-to-media meeting Wednesday morning, Horwath met with Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien.
The two discussed the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, small businesses and the opioid overdose crisis, a spokesperson for Ontario’s NDP told The Examiner in an email.
“It’s time for a government that’s here for you, to make it affordable for everyday families to go electric,” Horwath said.
She said there’s still a lot of work to be done around electric vehicle infrastructure. “There’s a lot of effort to be had, but our plan takes care of all of those things and will help us transform our autos into electric vehicles.”
Bruesch, who showed Horwath his pair of electric vehicles, along with his home charging system, said accelerating the transition to electric vehicle use — through government incentives and the expansion of roadside charging stations — is essential.
Bruesch, who hosted a Lakefield meetup with the Electric Vehicle Society in August, said the key is talking to people about the benefits of electric vehicles to “demystify” them.
“(Becoming an electric vehicle) is the smartest move that car buyers can do going forward,” he said.
NDP electric vehicle policy
A breakdown of the Ontario NDP’s zero-emissions vehicle strategy announced Wednesday:
Auto manufacturing, sales and purchases
• Provide world-leading financial incentives for Ontario auto manufacturing plants to retool to produce electric vehicles.
• Set a provincewide electric vehicle sales target of 15 per cent by 2025, 45 per cent by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2035.
• Offer strong incentives to buy an electric vehicle, excluding luxury vehicles but with added incentive to buy manufactured-in-Canada electric vehicles.
• Completely electrify government fleets by 2030.
• Give $600 to households to install a charging station at home.
• Require builders to put vehicle charging capacity in new homes.
• Build charging stations on public properties, like GO Train stations and along roadways.
• Work with municipalities to electrify all municipal transit fleets by 2040.
• Take immediate steps to electrify the GO Train network on an accelerated timeline to replace dirty diesel trains along all lines.
• Reverse provincial funding cuts made to municipal transit and paratransit services.
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him at email@example.com
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner