SURVEY: 74% of Canadians believe that automakers have a responsibility to move to zero-emission vehicles even if it reduces their profits

According to a poll conducted by Abacus Data and commissioned by Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Ecology Action Centre and the David Suzuki Foundation, 74% of Canadians believe that automakers have a responsibility to increase production of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and stop producing gasoline-powered vehicles, even if it negatively impacts their profits.

In addition, 58% of those surveyed agree that automakers should face financial penalties if they fail to shift production quickly enough to make all new vehicles sold in Canada zero-emission by 2035 as outlined in the federal government’s Emissions Reduction Plan.

“It is clear that Canadians are ready to buy ZEVs. But automakers are holding them back by increasing the supply of more affordable clean vehicles at a snail’s pace. They don’t want to give up making gasoline-powered vehicles and switch to ZEVs at the pace required to go carbon neutral, because that means they’ll make a little less profit. However, the Canadian public agrees that the auto industry has a responsibility to rethink its practices, even if it means lowering their profits,” says Nate Wallace, clean transportation program officer at Environmental Defence.


Waiting times discourage Canadians

While the majority of Canadians are ready to purchase a zero-emission vehicle, dealers have reported long wait times for their customers due to a low supply of ZEVs. As a result, 70% of the population say that these delays make them less likely to consider purchasing an ZEV. The lack of affordable models available from manufacturers is another factor in the slow adoption of ZEVs in Canada. In this regard, 86% of those surveyed agreed that there is a need for policy measures that would allow automakers to provide more affordable ZEVs.

“Quebec and British Columbia have already joined California and 15 other U.S. states in requiring automakers to change their business plans to sell moreZEVs. Having all of Canada join this North American market will send a strong signal to automakers to better supply Canadians waiting to get their hands on an EV. Such action would benefit those jurisdictions that have already implemented this policy, including Quebec, by increasing their overall production and lowering their prices. A Canada-wide VZE standard is a powerful and essential climate solution that we can no longer delay,” adds Andréanne Brazeau, Mobility Policy Analyst at Équiterre.


A Canada-wide VZE standard is long overdue

The majority of the limited VZE supply is currently destined for jurisdictions that already have sales requirements in place, namely British Columbia and Quebec. In other words, without federal government intervention, this problem is likely to continue. Yet 84% of Canadians support a national VZE standard that would provide fair and equitable access to this type of vehicle. In the Atlantic provinces, delays can be as long as three years and Canadians’ expectations for this regulatory framework are even higher.

“The Government of Canada must move quickly to implement a strong VZE standard with fair procurement provisions. By regulating all of Canada, the federal government will need to ensure that smaller provinces, including the Maritimes, get their fair share of VZE. Maritime Canadians also want to be protected from high gas prices and to be sure they have the same access to sustainable transportation as people in the larger provinces. It is clear from this survey that the Canadian public overwhelmingly supports national standards for the availability of ZEVs that would allow every region of Canada to get an equitable distribution of more affordable clean cars,” said Thomas Arnason McNeil, Climate Policy Coordinator for Sustainable Transportation at the Ecology Action Centre.

Canada will soon join a growing list of climate-leading jurisdictions, including California, the United Kingdom and the European Union, that have put in place measures to phase out gasoline vehicle sales by 2035 or sooner.

“In an increasingly electrified future, as the global market demands, ambitious federal regulations on ZEVs would help the Canadian auto industry compete. The recent U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, for example, will greatly improve the affordability of ZEVs in the United States. It’s time for regulations that signal that the days of the combustion engine are now numbered, for the sake of our climate and our health,” says Tom Green, Senior Climate Policy Advisor at the David Suzuki Foundation.


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