Subscriber Survey

Subscribers overwhelmingly support government spending on EV production, survey finds

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stands in front of a Ford Mach-5 electric vehicle at the Ford Connectivity and Innovation Centre in Ottawa in October 2020.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stands in front of a Ford Mach-5 electric vehicle at the Ford Connectivity and Innovation Centre in Ottawa in October 2020. David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A strong majority of The Logic subscribers believe the federal government should be spending to encourage domestic electric-vehicle production, our latest subscriber survey has found.

“EV is the way forward. What we cannot absorb domestically we can export,” one respondent wrote.

Seventy-two percent of respondents agreed with the premise in a survey conducted between October 27 and 29. Forty-five per cent strongly agreed, and 27 per cent somewhat agreed.

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The Logic’s subscribers were emailed a private link to an online survey on Tuesday, October 27, and the survey closed Thursday, October 29. Respondents’ identities were kept anonymous and duplicates were removed as needed. Subscribers were asked whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: “The federal government should be spending to encourage domestic EV production.” Their choices were: strongly disagree, somewhat disagree, neither disagree nor agree, somewhat agree, strongly agree, I don’t know.

The federal government has shown a willingness to open its chequebook to jumpstart EV production. Last month, Ottawa announced plans to contribute $295 million to an $1.8-billion overhaul of Ford’s Oakville, Ont. plant. The government is also reportedly in negotiations with Fiat Chrysler over incentives for a tentative deal to retool its Windsor, Ont. plant to produce plug-in or hybrid vehicles.

At the Oakville announcement, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said that the investment “marks the beginning of zero-emission-vehicle manufacturing in Canada” and “secures Canada’s place in a cleaner and more sustainable global automotive ecosystem.”

Together with the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the federal Liberals are making the case that Canada is especially well positioned to own the EV supply chain, given its auto-manufacturing experience and natural resources. Several of The Logic’s subscribers who responded to the survey shared this notion.

“There is a unique Canadian opportunity from mining to export sales of finished products,” one subscriber wrote.

“Canada has clean technology strengths related to EV production (and required resources),” another said. “This presents an opportunity to focus on those strengths and build the clean technology companies and ecosystem of the future.”

Subscribers noted that investing in EV production could help the country transition away from traditional industry, including oil and gas, and toward clean energy.

“Building a low-carbon export economy that’s better than pre-COVID includes retooling old industry,” one subscriber wrote, adding that EV production would create an opportunity for domestic supply chains to connect Alberta and Saskatchewan with Ontario.

A robust EV supply chain could benefit other fledgling green industries, as well. “It will also help other products that could use electrical storage, such as wind and solar, and backup generators for homes and businesses,” one subscriber wrote.

Another respondent suggested that the federal government work with provinces to upgrade electrical grids to provide infrastructure for EVs, including trains.

One subscriber said they strongly agreed with spending because the U.S. will be “subsidizing this industry in the near future.” South of the border, a Joe Biden presidency would likely offer large incentives for EV production. There is steep global competition in the sector, with plants in China, Germany and the U.S. set to produce EVs for major manufacturers. 

Another wrote in to say that if EVs are an economic priority for Canada, the country should “urgently build collective IP stocks for this sector, particularly for batteries.” Japan and South Korea currently lead international patent applications for batteries. According to a recent BloombergNEF report, Canada ranks fourth in the world for the strength of its lithium-ion battery supply chain—but the IP produced by its leading researchers is not always retained domestically.  

Some subscribers were more hesitant in their support. Several raised the issue of consumer demand, which remains low—in 2019, just 24,656 new passenger battery EVs were registered in the country, according to Statistics Canada. By 2025, Ottawa wants zero-emission vehicles to make up 10 per cent of light-duty sales, and 100 per cent by 2040. Until that happens, at least one subscriber said they would support government spending on a domestic EV industry “only if it is clear that there is an international market.”

One subscriber cautioned against the “tendency to add government assistance programs on top of each other.” Ottawa has already introduced a popular electric-car rebate program to increase consumer demand. 

Twenty per cent of respondents did not support federal government spending to encourage EV production. Of those, 13 per cent strongly disagreed with spending, and seven per cent somewhat disagreed. The remaining eight per cent of subscribers neither agreed nor disagreed, or said they didn’t know.

“Governments are generally good at spending money, not necessarily finding successful investments,” one subscriber said.

Another subscriber brought up “branch plant economy thinking,” where multinationals invest in Canada though they are headquartered elsewhere, as some have argued risks happening with global tech giants. Electric-vehicle supply lines controlled by the Detroit Three could face a similar critique.

Several subscribers suggested that EVs aren’t the be-all and end-all of a green economy. “I’m discouraged when my tax dollars help wealthy consumers buy luxury vehicles that I can not afford,” one wrote.

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“I have mixed feelings about encouraging the development of EVs,” another said. “It needs to be linked to incentives and regulatory guardrails regarding carsharing.”

But for at least one subscriber, transitioning to EVs is key to a larger environmental push.

“We need to get ahead of the curve if we want to change behaviour and save the planet.”