Backstopped by charging stations at Royal Roads University, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his Monday visit to the Capital Region to boast about electric vehicle measures his government has rolled out in recent weeks.
One of the best ways to reduce pollution is to get more “clean cars on the road,” Trudeau said as he touted the Liberals extending the $5,000 federal rebate program promised in last week’s budget and an updated EV sales mandate.
That sales measure rejigs targets set just last year and would ensure one in five new passenger vehicles sold are battery-operated by 2026, 60 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2035.
The location for the PM’s appearance was fitting for talking about electric vehicles, as the Capital Region boasts one of the highest levels of EV uptake in the country.
But pressed on the up-front costs for electric vehicles and admitting the initial affordability challenges, Trudeau said “prices will come down” with technological advances.
“With the kind of demand and the solutions being brought forward by the auto industry, it wouldn’t surprise me for us to reach some of those (sales) targets ahead of time,” he said.
“Finally, it’s about creating new jobs as well. With our critical minerals strategy here in Canada, we’ll be supporting the development of EV supply chains in Canada, which will create more jobs, will create a growing economy and again, will allow people to afford electric vehicles even quicker.”
However, questions remain on how the government plans to ensure the electricity powering people plugging in is coming from low-emission sources. Trudeau, whose government just approved a 300 million-barrel oil project off the coast of Newfoundland, said Canada needs to reduce its dependence on oil and gas, adding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine emphasizes the importance of finding cleaner energy sources. The federal government’s role is to partner with those advancing innovative energy solutions to be used across Canada and the world, he said, before conceding that nuclear power is on the table.
Asked about housing struggles, the prime minister pointed to budget promises to get more housing built and reduce barriers for municipalities by shifting zoning regulations and accelerating permitting. He said Canada will double new housing starts over the next 10 years and the government will go after those treating housing as an “investment vehicle.”
“Housing should be about homes for families to be able to build a future for themselves and their kids, it should be about strengthening communities,” he said. “It shouldn’t be about wealthy investors and corporations trying to secure solid investments.”
With COVID-19 cases rising again and the feds facing sustained pressure from premiers to increase the Canada Health Transfer, Trudeau hinted more health-care funding could come with strings attached and added that other money downloads in the past haven’t resulted in better health outcomes.
“We are very clear, there will be significantly more money from the federal government in health care.”
To cap his local visit, Trudeau spoke with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in the early afternoon before meeting with members of the city’s youth advisory council.
Asked about potential protests during his visit, the PM joked that he couldn’t remember a trip to Victoria without them. He said it’s vital for Canadians to keep expressing their views and disagreements with governments in legal, responsible and safe ways.
“I think it’s important to understand that we’ve been through a couple of really difficult years and it has led to anxiety, a sense of helplessness, a sense of frustration around governments having imposed mandates to keep us all safe.”
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