Canada must now build on EV investments

We need to define what success looks like for the future Canadian EV sector.

This article was written by Matthew Fortier and Bentley Allan, and was published in the Toronto Star on March 27, 2023.


The past two years will be remembered as the moment when the global electric vehicle market achieved hockey-stick growth, with year-over-year sales tripling from 2020 to 2022. Capital investment in the global EV supply chain has similarly surged as governments around the world offer a range of incentives in the scramble to secure vehicle production mandates, new battery plants and critical minerals.

Canadian governments, to their credit, have not been left on the sidelines in this global race. In the past year, Ottawa and Ontario, have deployed incentives to attract multibillion-dollar investments from Stellantis/LGES, Honda, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, Mercedes, and Umicore. Governments across Canada, meanwhile, are building charging infrastructure and supporting EV-focused innovation in both university labs and accelerators.

The Volkswagen announcement this month is a testament to that work. And to do it in the face of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which would provide a battery factory approximately $2 billion per year of support, is all the more impressive and demonstrates a commitment to securing Canada’s place in global automotive value chains.

Yet, Canada can’t just now sit back and assume its place in the global EV industry is secure. Just the opposite. In order to justify a public outlay on subsidies to offset IRA incentives, Canada now must strategically build value chains from mining to cathode active battery materials and transition parts manufacturers to ensure they are making the equipment needed for next generation vehicles.

The planning required to achieve these ends begins with a clear vision of what Canada brings to the table: transparent government, abundant clean electricity, a skilled and educated labour force, extensive mineral resources and expertise in mining finance.

But we also need to define what success looks like for the future Canadian EV sector. This includes an assessment of the investments needed to incentivize global mining companies to commit to Canada; a plan to ensure that this emerging industry creates clear pathways for Indigenous participation; and incentives to foster R&D into next generation batteries and manufacturing. All of this must be co-ordinated in a transparent manner so stakeholders can align their work with public production targets and investment timelines.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to pay close attention to international best practices for developing cohesive and effective industrial strategies. Transparent communications — between governments, stakeholders and industry — is paramount.

Canadian policymakers can look for inspiration to independent public-private partnership models, such as the EU’s InnoEnergy, which fosters the development of European battery and hydrogen value chains.

For Canada, an independent public-private model would mean systematic co-ordination between the private sector, governments and civil society to define ambitious but achievable targets and specific, time-bound actions for achieving those targets.

It would also mean identifying challenges holding back investment into the Canadian minerals and battery materials ecosystem and prioritizing solutions; and it would mean developing institutional relationships with counterparts in allied jurisdictions, such as InnoEnergy, the European Battery Alliance, Li-Bridge in the U.S. and the Korean Battery Alliance.

This is how Canada can achieve a broad consensus on strategy — an answer, in short, to the question of what we’re going to be good at — and enable the public sector to design policy and align resources to deliver on the goals we’ve collectively identified.

Driven by technology and a global imperative to dramatically reduce emissions, the world of mobility is reinventing itself. After almost 60 years of cross-border free trade that transformed Canada into the world’s 11th largest vehicle manufacturer, we know how the development of an integrated and globally competitive industrial ecosystem becomes a sort of magnet, capable of attracting investment, talent, and innovation, and ultimately building an inclusive form of prosperity.

Repeating this formidable achievement is a national project for Canada’s 21st century.

Matthew Fortier is president and CEO of Accelerate and Bentley Allan is research director for Net-Zero Industrial Strategy at the Transition Accelerator.

Author: Ray Nakano

Ray is a retired, third generation Japanese Canadian born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. He resides in Toronto where he worked for the Ontario Government for 28 years. Ray was ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh in 2011 and practises in the Plum Village tradition, supporting sanghas in their mindfulness practice. Ray is very concerned about our climate crisis. He has been actively involved with the ClimateFast group ( for the past 5 years. He works to bring awareness of our climate crisis to others and motivate them to take action. He has created the website, for tracking climate-related news articles, reports, and organizations. He has created to focus on what you can do to address the climate crisis. He is always looking for opportunities to reach out to communities, politicians, and governments to communicate about our climate crisis and what we need to do. He says: “Our world is in dire straits. We have to bend the curve on our heat-trapping pollutants in the next few years if we hope to avoid the most serious impacts of human-caused global warming. Doing nothing is not an option. We must do everything we can to create a livable future for our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations.”

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