Ontario risks losing its auto crown as cheap, green power gives Quebec the EV edge
As both provinces race to woo automakers and battery makers, a new quandary could arise
Ontario Premier Doug Ford this past fall spoke at a provincial construction industry conference and told his audience that his province would be at the vanguard of the next revolution in automotive production.
“We’re going to be the No. 1 manufacturer of electric cars anywhere,” he said.
Similar things are said next door in Quebec. Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon regularly brags about the powerful combination of his province’s rich mineral endowment and the cheap, low-emission electricity produced by Hydro-Québec.
“If we play our cards right, we could become world leaders in this market of the future,” he said at a press conference a year ago.
In Ontario, which has been the locus of Canada’s auto sector for decades, months have come and gone without any new battery manufacturing projects being announced. But in Quebec, nodes that could become part of a North American supply chain for electric-vehicle battery production are already popping up.
As both provinces look to woo automakers and battery makers with financial incentives and subsidies, the situation may raise a new quandary for Canada. In their zeal to grab a piece of the burgeoning EV supply chain, will Quebec and Ontario end up competing against one another in a race to the bottom, in which all the purported benefits of industry, from jobs to tax revenue, fly out the window as companies secure lucrative deals?
“Obviously, I think Quebec and Ontario are always in competition for the new auto industry,” said David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada, a lobby group that represents non-American companies such as Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW).
Adams added that having an auto industry in both provinces could also be complementary. If battery manufacturers build facilities in Quebec because of its cheap, low-emission electricity, that may also help entice automakers to build operations in Ontario, which has a track record of building vehicles.