The impending closure of the General Motors auto assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario creates an opportunity for the federal government to step in, buy the facility, and shift its production to electric vehicles, columnist Linda McQuaig argues in a recent post for the Toronto Star.
“The Star’s business columnist David Olive made a persuasive case  that Ottawa should step in and buy GM Canada (at a fair, negotiated price), and use its facilities—including assembly plants, engineering labs, and cold-weather testing centre — to create the first Canadian-owned automaker,” McQuaig writes. “As Olive observed, we know a lot about building cars in Ontario.”
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As for the EV side of the story, “there’s never a perfect moment for a really ambitious move, although actually this might be a good one—the global auto industry is in flux, with the world expected to transition to the electric car over the next few decades,” she adds. “A study by researchers at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Georgetown University concluded that such a transition is likely to come faster than expected. They estimate more than 90% of passenger vehicles in the U.S., Canada, Europe and other advances nations could be electric by 2040.”
With far fewer parts than an internal combustion vehicle, the shift to EVs would lead to auto assembly being “onshored” in advance economies, meaning future jobs in a place like Oshawa, the IMF researchers found.
While “any decision to invest billions of taxpayer funds would have to be made with utmost care,” McQuaig contrasts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response to date to the opportunity in southern Ontario to the moment “when he promptly jumped in with 4.5 billion taxpayer dollars to purchase the leaky, 65-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline last spring, declaring it ‘in the national interest’ to ensure the pipeline’s expansion after the corporate owner threatened to back out of the project.”
When it comes to EV production, “Trudeau has shrugged and shown no interest in using taxpayer dollars to create a Canadian-owned automaker that could involve us in the future challenge of combining transportation and clean technology—a challenge that seemingly holds the best hope for tackling climate change.”