Governor General Mary Simons gives first throne speech
Governor General Mary Simons (centre) gives first throne speech, confirming government’s pledge to mandate zero emission vehicle sales. Photo: Senate of Canada

In today’s concise Speech from the Throne, read by Governor General Mary Simon, the Liberal government repeated its pledge to mandate the sale of zero-emission vehicles

Today’s Speech from the Throne, marking the start of the new Parliament under a new Liberal minority government, came in at a relatively brief 32 minutes.

There was a strong high-level focus on climate change — “Now, we must go further, faster,” said Simon, in a section pledging concrete action to address it — but the speech was equally brief when it came to specifics about the government’s plans for electrification of transportation.

“Investing in public transit and mandating the sale of zero-emissions vehicles will help us breathe cleaner air,” said Simon, the only time ZEVs were mentioned.

That statement followed a pledge to move to cap and cut oil and gas sector emissions, “while accelerating our path to a 100 percent net-zero electricity future.”

Campaign pledge

During the recent federal campaign, the Liberal platform included a pledge to introduce a zero-emission vehicle mandate requiring that at least half of all passenger vehicles sold in Canada be zero emission by 2030, reaching 100 per cent in 2035.

But it is unclear if today’s reference to “mandating sales of zero-emission vehicles” was related to that commitment or merely to the government’s move in the last Parliament, in June, to replace its voluntary target for reaching 100 per cent sales of ZEV cars and light trucks by 2040 with a mandatory target to do so in 2035.

A sales mandate would require all car makers selling vehicles in Canada to ensure that zero-emission vehicles make up a minimum percentage of total sales. Currently, both British Columbia and Quebec have similar mandates — mechanisms seen to be directly responsible for those two provinces leading the way in EV sales in Canada.

While the federal government stopped short of introducing an supply-side minimum sales mandate in June when it lowered its 100 per cent target to 2035, then Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, said the government was open to “regulatory mechanisms” including a “ZEV mandate” if that’s what it takes to reach the mandatory target.

Pending any new announcements or statements by the government, the next opportunity to learn more about its plans may come when the Prime Minister’s mandate letters to his ministers are released.