Like many governments, the Canadian one is going to force people to buy electric vehicles, or at least ban them from buying the alternatives, whether they want them or not, and whether they can charge them or not. And it raises the big unanswered question of what they intend to do if companies offer EVs for sale but customers won’t buy them. By 2035 when the ban on internal combustion engines is supposed to kick in, the answer is presumably a straightforward “No car for you.” But meanwhile what does the government do, or the car companies, if we do not buy the 20% of EVs mandated for Model Year 2026, 23% for 2027, 34% for 2028 and so forth? Is it first come first served for gasoline or diesel and the losers get electric, or no car at all? Will people queue up around the block at dealerships on Dec. 31 for the good seats? Will there be ration books with coupons? Is it a lottery? Or can companies just offer them for purchase then sell us all good old ICE vehicles?
We were not surprised to discover that most Canadians have no idea any of this stuff is heading their way. Including that, the National Post reports, according to a new poll “a whopping 84 per cent of Canadians do not know what the ‘just transition’ plan actually is.” Which might be explained by its architects not knowing either. And there’s more bad news for those politicians and bureaucrats:
“more than half of respondents doubt that Ottawa can achieve its stated goal of replacing jobs lost in the oil and gas sector due to a transition to a low-carbon economy. Furthermore, 60 per cent of all Canadians think we shouldn’t make major changes before larger global polluters make serious efforts to reduce carbon emissions, according to a new Postmedia-Leger poll.”
It doesn’t help that federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Reagan erupted under questioning from Canadian Senators that:
“I’ve said this for years. ‘Just transition’ is a word that workers hate and my constituents don’t like and so I don’t like it either. We tried anyway within the bureaucracy and amongst ourselves to say the words ‘sustainable jobs.’”
As if the problems with the whole mess can be fixed merely by giving it another name. (And to nitpick, “Just transition” is not a word, it’s a phrase). When it comes to the just sustainable jobs transition thingy, what it does won’t be what its creators think, and it won’t impress Canadians when they discover it. And on this file, as on many others, those Canadians not aware of what’s coming would be well-advised to take note of Leon Trotskii’s ominous maxim that “You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you.”
In C2C Journal James Coggin, who we note approvingly is “a writer, editor and historian” in British Columbia, gives quite the detailed drubbing to the government’s claim that Canadians will end up $9.5 billion dollars richer by 2050 by being forced to switch. He takes the math apart and it just won’t go back together, starting with their underestimating the cost of EVs and going on to their utterly, absurdly underestimating the cost of a charging network including in people’s homes, which probably stretches into the hundreds of billions and then spectacularly duffing the bit about new generating capacity and transmission lines.
Coggin also notes the well-established, if well-ignored, fact that EVs do not respond well to heavy loads, from pulling a trailer to transporting construction material. There are serious non-monetary costs that are left out even of the very fishy math put forward by the government. (We also note that the supposedly detailed plan, which goes by the odd name of a “REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT”, only refers to “the fleet offered for sale in Canada” not the one actually sold, implying the EVs might just sit there like modern versions of the old New York “Raines Sandwich” but we assume when implemented the rules will in fact refer to vehicles actually sold, possibly after a short stunned delay.)
Which brings us back to the question of what car companies are to do if Canadians don’t want unreliable, unchargeable vehicles. Which as Coggan details they currently don’t: “Even the 2026 goal seems a big stretch given that only about 6 percent of cars currently on the road in Canada are fully electric and that EVs made up only about 5 percent of car sales in 2021.”
Politicians being slippery characters, he indignantly adds that:
“At a media event announcing the new federal regulations in December 2022, Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin, parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, claimed that the regulations forcing Canadians to buy EVs are ‘about making sure that Canadians have access to the vehicles they want.’ It is a strange claim to make.”
Yeah, strange is one word. Demented and Orwellian would be others you could use because, again quoting Coggan:
“According to her government’s own Impact Statement, it’s the exact opposite. Rather than increasing choice, ‘The proposed Amendments are expected to lead to a loss of consumer choice,’ the document reads. (Emphasis added.)”
But of course to a certain class of zealot, true choice is about what you should want not what you do want, and they have ways to make you shop.
Politicians being slippery characters, the Trudeau administration’s definition of “zero-emission” also includes non-zero-emission “plug-in hybrid electric vehicles” (or PHEV) which um burn gasoline if you need actual power at some point. However these will supposedly be limited to 20% of all vehicles as of 2028. Which again raises the question “And iffn we don’t?” about buying them at all, and also as to whether if some mechanism is created to force some chump to do so, they’ll be left dusty on the lot for the slow and clumsy to buy after the nimble and alert have rushed to the dealer to scoop up the PHEVs with a phew.
The impact statement, apparently not written by people who spend much time thinking about the Law of Unintended Consequences, including people delaying buying new cars once the government makes doing so an expensive and frustrating hassle, also says “ZEV sales targets are specified by model year, and the analysis assumes that each model year results occur in the same calendar year.” Which they don’t even do now. But while currently you get next year’s model this year, one can certainly imagine a manufacturer continuing to crank out 2025 cars into 2035 if there’s consumer satisfaction and profit to be had thereby.
The whole Impact Analysis is a classic case of telling the computer model what to tell you and it does. EVs are cheap and everyone will want them. Canadians will receive $19.2 billion in health benefits from the switch. (Note the lovely decimal place to make guesswork look like laser precision.) Canadians will want this percentage of EVs in this year and that percentage in that year. But it is also a classic case of wishful lack of thinking that leaves out the crucial question that arises because people have moral agency.
Namely “and iffn we don’t?” Have they really not thought of it? They don’t seem to have.