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Canada’s EV strategy has cost $4 million a job: Jack Mintz


7 minute read

From the MacDonald Laurier Institute

By Jack Mintz

Chrystia Freeland’s new economy is fuelled by old-fashioned subsidies.

With Canadian GDP per capita dropping like a stone, what would you expect our minister of finance, Chrystia Freeland, to say last week at the elite Davos confab? “Come to Canada! We have $135 billion to give you!” is what she did say. Given our poor investment performance, it seems the only way to attract capital is to offer billions of tax dollars to foreign multinationals.

But not just to any company that might want to invest in Canada. Freeland’s $15-billion Canada Growth Plan and $120 billion in tax credits constitute an industrial policy skewed toward clean energy, critical mining (e.g., lithium, nickel and copper) and retooling manufacturing, largely in voter-rich Central Canada. It is a huge number to spend, equivalent to a year and half of federal corporate tax collections.
If you are mining for iron ore and gold, however, you’re out of luck since these are not critical minerals. As for agriculture and forestry, they don’t count, either. Service sectors like construction, communications and transportation also take a back seat. And forget about greenfield oil and gas investments like liquified natural gas plants. Instead, tell Germany to fly a kite in Qatar rather than have reliable Canadian supply.

Will these “new economy” subsidies work? Past experience says no.

  • Subsidies are often paid to companies that would do the investment anyway. If there really is a transition to e-cars, batteries will be built for a profit anyway.
  • Even if subsidies do stimulate more investment, money is wasted as countries bid to attract the same investment. Besides, it is better to import subsidized products and use the tax dollars where Canada can create a real comparative advantage. Australia learned that lesson three decades ago when it let its frequently bailed-out auto industry disappear. Australian productivity improved.
  • Do subsidies really create jobs? Companies that hire more workers may simply draw them from more profitable enterprises elsewhere in the economy, with no net gain in jobs. Plus: not all jobs are equal. Freeland’s green economy means replacing oil and gas extraction that produces close to $1000 in output per working hour with green investments that earn about a thirteenth of that.
  • Subsidies are paid to politically chosen companies that might well fail. The feds gave $173 million to a Quebec vaccine company, Medicago, that ended up being shut down despite such a generous “helping hand.” Bombardier, recipient of over $4 billion in subsidies since 1996, can barely turn a profit without them.

The extravagant EV battery subsidies for the auto industry are a perfect example of what can go wrong. Fearing EV production would go south, Canada has thrown $35 billion (so far!) at three companies (Volkswagen, Stellantis and Northvolt) to create roughly 8,500 jobs. That works out to over $4 million for each worker. By comparison, Michigan is spending US$1.75 billion on an EV battery plant that will create 2500 jobs costing $US700,000 per worker (C$920,000). Though it’s a bargain compared to Canada’s handouts, the subsidies have generated much criticism as a “massive cost” generating “good paying jobs” that in fact will pay only US$20 per hour.

And who knows whether these companies will even succeed? Tesla has 60 per cent of the U.S. EV market, compared to just six per cent for Volkswagen and zero for Stellantis. Maybe Stellantis and Volkswagen will grab a sizeable market share but with mounting EV financial losses as sales slow, it’s also possible they may end up in financial trouble and require — oops! — another bailout.

To fund this subsidized new economy, the rest of Canada is paying higher personal, excise, payroll, property and corporate taxes to cover new-economy spending. And the command-and-control socialism that is Freeland’s new-economy master plan doesn’t have a good track record, to put things kindly.

There is an alternative. Focus on the private sector’s animal spirits rather than Soviet-style central planning. As I wrote last week, no single silver bullet will solve our growth policy.  We need an “open for business” agenda, which means taking the shackles off the private sector, where entrepreneurial talent is most likely to be found.

Instead of throwing around tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, we need policies that make it easier for the private sector to create jobs. Getting rid of regulation that slows down the building infrastructure and housing is a start. Cutting taxes would make life more affordable and improve incentives to work, save and invest. Keeping immigration at levels consistent with growth is critical, too.

Governments should also be looking at their own productivity. The rising furor over inflationary municipal property tax hikes is a case in point. At our home this week, we received a robocall invitation to a phone-in town hall to solve Toronto’s “financial crisis.” It’s Mayor Olivia Chow’s way of selling painful property tax hikes — 10.5 per cent — to voters already pressed by high food, shelter and transportation prices. It seems Toronto can’t find any cost savings. This same story is being repeated in Calgary (where the tax hike is 7.8 per cent), Vancouver (7.5 per cent) and Edmonton (6.6 per cent). Yet, with digitization of processes, artificial intelligence and greater opportunities for contracting-out, cities that wanted to could improve their productivity, lower their costs and not need to raid household piggy banks.

The new economy won’t come as a result of Freeland’s industrial policy.  It will come from markets unfettered by political interference.

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It’s Time To Abandon Reckless EV Mandates

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From Canadians for Affordable Energy

Dan McTeague

Written By Dan McTeague

Already, billions of tax dollars have been handed out in subsidies to companies that have no accountability to the Canadian taxpayer. This experiment in societal re-engineering will disproportionately harm Canadian workers and families, especially those who live in rural communities.

And it will surely fail

Canada is not nearly ready for the wholesale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

That was the message of the letter I sent to every member of Parliament recently, urging them to drop the “Electric Vehicle Availability Standard” introduced by the Trudeau government late last year. That’s the policy that mandates that all new vehicles sold in Canada must be electric by 2035. There is no way, considering the economic, technological and infrastructural realities of our country — and our world — where this is possible.

Stubbornly attempting to achieve this goal would do serious damage to our economy, leaving Canadian taxpayers on the hook for generations to come. Already, billions of tax dollars have been handed out in subsidies to companies that have no accountability to the Canadian taxpayer. This experiment in societal re-engineering will disproportionately harm Canadian workers and families, especially those who live in rural communities.

And it will surely fail. In my letter I highlight a few of the central reasons why staying the course on EV mandates by 2035 is extremely reckless. Right off the bat, the technology is simply not there for electric vehicles to be a reliable source of transportation in Canada’s climate. The batteries cannot hold their charge in frigid temperatures. Forcing Canadians to rely on vehicles that can’t handle our winters is irresponsible and dangerous.

Electric vehicles’ cost is another issue. Right now, the EV market relies heavily on government subsidies. These subsidies can’t last forever. But without them EVs are prohibitively expensive. Even with them, the costs of maintaining an EV are high. Replacing a damaged battery, for example, can cost upwards of $20,000. Mandating that people buy vehicles they can’t afford to either purchase in the first place or maintain if they do buy them is political malpractice.

A fact long ignored by decision-makers in Ottawa is that our electrical grid isn’t ready for the excess demand that would come with widespread EV adoption. These mandates, paired with the government’s goal of fully decarbonizing the grid by 2035, put us on a collision course with the reality of unreliable power. A grid powered, not by reliable fossil fuels, but by spotty wind and solar energy would be further burdened with millions of cars relying exclusively on electricity.

Beyond the electricity itself, the EV mandates will require additional transmission and distribution capacity. But there are no signs any plan is in place to expand our transmission capacity to meet the 2035 target.

The sheer number of new charging stations required by wholesale adoption of EVs will strain our distribution networks. Natural Resources Canada projections show that Canada will need between 442,000 and 469,000 public charging ports by 2035. At the moment, we have roughly 28,000. And that doesn’t include the private charging stations people will need to install at home. Closing that gap in such a tight time frame is almost certainly impossible.

All of those considerations aside, at a fundamental level the government’s push for electric vehicles encroaches on the operation of the free market, all in the name of emissions reductions. The Canadian economy is founded on the market principle that the consumer drives the economy (no pun intended). Thousands of times over, it has been shown that if there is enough demand for a product, supply soon follows. In the case of EVs, however, the federal government is operating under the assumption that if you somehow create a supply, that will inspire a demand.

This hasn’t worked in any of the countries where it’s been attempted, which is why nations around the world have started to tap the brakes on EV mandates. Decision-makers in Ottawa need to follow suit and abandon these reckless and costly mandates. Let the market decide when EVs are ready for prime time. In other words, let Canadians decide.

Dan McTeague is President of Canadians for Affordable Energy

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Many Gen Z and millennial Canadians don’t believe in EV corporate welfare

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From the Fraser Institute

By Tegan Hill and Jake Fuss

The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently estimated federal government support for EV initiatives will cost Canadian taxpayers $31.4 billion, which represents roughly $1,043 per tax filer.

According to a new Leger poll, a significant percentage of Gen Z and millennial Canadians don’t believe that billions of dollars in government subsidies to build electric vehicle (EV) plants—including $5 billion to Honda, $13.2 billion to Volkswagen and $15 billion to Stellantis—will benefit them. And based on a large body of research, they’re right.

The poll, which surveyed Canadians aged 18 to 39 who are eligible to vote, found that only 32 per cent of respondents believe these subsidies (a.k.a. corporate welfare) will be of “significant benefit to your generation” while 28 per cent disagree and 25 per cent are on the fence.

Unfortunately, this type of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare isn’t new. The federal government spent an estimated $84.6 billion (adjusted for inflation) on business subsidies from 2007 to 2019, the last pre-COVID year of data. Over the same period, provincial and local governments spent another $302.9 billion on business subsidies for their favoured firms and industries. And these figures exclude other forms of government support such as loan guarantees, direct investments and regulatory privileges, so the actual cost of corporate welfare during this period was much higher.

The Trudeau government has shown a particular proclivity for corporate welfare. According to a recent study, federal subsidies have increased by 140 per cent from 2014/15 to 2023/24. But again, the money used to fund these subsidies isn’t free—its funded by taxpayers. The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently estimated federal government support for EV initiatives will cost Canadian taxpayers $31.4 billion, which represents roughly $1,043 per tax filer.

And Canadians are right to be skeptical. Despite what the Trudeau or provincial governments claim, there’s little to no evidence that corporate welfare creates jobs (on net) or produces widespread economic benefits.

Instead, by giving money to select firms, the government simply shifts jobs and investment away from other firms and industries—which are likely more productive, as they don’t require government funding to be economically viable—to the government’s preferred industries and firms, circumventing the preferences of consumers and investors. If Honda, Volkswagen and Stellantis are unwilling to build their EV battery plants in Canada without corporate welfare, that sends a strong signal that those projects make little economic sense.

Finally, higher taxes (or lower government spending in other areas) ultimately fund corporate welfare. And higher taxes depress economic activity—the higher the rates, the more economic activity is discouraged.

Unfortunately, the Trudeau government believes it knows better than investors and entrepreneurs, so it continues to use taxpayer money to allocate scarce resources—including labour—to their favoured projects and industries. And since politicians spend other people’s money, they have little incentive to be careful investors.

Canadians, including young Canadians, are right to be skeptical of corporate welfare. As the evidence suggests, there’s little reason to think it will lead to any economic benefit for them.

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