AN ELECTRIC PRESENCE…

THERE WAS A TIME WHEN ONTARIO PREMIER DOUG FORD WAS STAUNCHLY OPPOSED TO ELECTRIC ANYTHING.

By Carter Hammett

Fast forward several months and $295 million later and things have changed somewhat. 

That’s because the governments of Ontario and Canada, as of this writing, are putting the final touches on a deal that will see each contribute $295 million to help Ford upgrade its Oakville assembly plant to start the process of making electric vehicles. This was a significant part of a $1.8-billion deal between Ford and its largest union, Unifor—a decision arrived at hours before a strike deadline–to start producing five new electrical models at the Oakville plant.

When all is said and done, the Ford plant will become the company’s numero uno electric vehicle factory in North America. Ford’s position is that electric vehicles will eventually bypass their fossil fuel-powered equivalents within the next decade. 

The Oakville plant’s current headcount is about 3,400 employees. The feds state that the plan will secure over 5,400 jobs nationwide including the supply chain.

Ontario, meanwhile, has stated that “by making this investment in Ford Canada, we are ensuring our province continues to lead North America and the world in automotive manufacturing and innovation while boosting competitiveness in this key sector,” Doug Ford said. “We are also securing thousands of good-paying jobs, not just at the facility in Oakville, but across the province. This project will help support our auto parts sector and other

suppliers and service providers.” 

Previously announced by the feds was a $300 million investment to create a charging station network for EVs across the country. This was in addition to the $239 million Trudeau et al have coughed up to the 56,000 Canadians who have already purchased an EV. A little number crunching and the figure works out to an average of $4,000 per vehicle.

Trudeau described the venture as a “win-win,” before going on to state that Canada was a “destination for clean technology…Companies like Ford are helping accelerate our transition to a low-carbon, clean-growth economy, which will help protect our environment, drive innovation and create many good middle-class jobs.”

Ford echoed this by adding that a partnership with the feds meant that “rather than bickering and arguing and pointing fingers at each other, when we’re all pulling in the same direction, this is the result we get.”

That statement stands in sharp contrast to the $30-million pledge to fight the federal carbon tax only two years ago. That battle included kyboshing a cap-and-trade scheme established by Ford’s Liberal forerunner Kathleen Wynne. Killing that program included killing rebates of up to $14,000 for a primo Tesla and payouts to retrofit older buildings which would have made them more energy-efficient. 

Perhaps this is the beginning of a sea change for Ford, the premier. Under the current agreement, the factory upgrade won’t start until 2024, with vehicles scheduled to start being rolled out in 2025, although at press time it was unclear exactly what vehicles would be produced at the Oakville plant.

Interestingly enough, Quebec, in partnership with the feds, also stated their goal of producing batteries in Canada. Quebec has supposedly set aside $1.4 billion for battery production. So, while all of this sounds like good news with the country on track to reduce emissions by 30 percent during the next decade, along with unionized positions being resuscitated, nobody has said exactly where these cars and batteries are going to be sold yet.

It’s a given that Canada is perceived as a smaller market so in order to achieve profitability, we have to determine where these bad boys will go. 

It seems Canada has finally established a strategy that positions itself as an eventual leader in the clean technology sector. There’s a lot of ramifications implied and a lot more questions to be answered, but for now the commitment suggests that Canada is finally learning how to march forward into the 21st century.

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