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Tesla and Ontario officials across multiple government departments met and corresponded about “investment opportunities” dozens of times in the past three years, Electric Autonomy can exclusively reveal. Photo: Tesla

The meetings and exchanges, which occurred between 2020 and 2023, are part of a freedom of information document cache requested by Electric Autonomy

Tesla and Ontario officials across multiple government departments met and corresponded about “investment opportunities” dozens of times in the past three years, Electric Autonomy can exclusively reveal.

Documents show that Ontario officials ranging from the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Vic Fedeli, to the Minister of Energy, Todd Smith, and many other high-ranking individuals were all in regular contact with Tesla “decision makers”­ — including one exchange that involved Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk.

“I wanted to forward an article that announces the intention of Canada to subsidize EV battery production,” reads the Dec. 2022 email sent by a commercial officer at the Ontario Trade and Investment Office in Dallas, Tex., to three recipients, one of whom was Musk.

“Just another indication of the commitment of Canada to become a hub for EV production in the future.”

It’s unknown if Musk replied.

All the correspondence is disclosed in documents obtained by Electric Autonomy through a freedom of information (FOI) request regarding Tesla communication between 2020 and 2023 with the Ontario government.

In addition to the records confirming Electric Autonomy’s earlier reporting on Tesla’s increasing interest in Ontario as a manufacturing destination, they also reveal for the first time a glimpse of the government’s efforts to get the Texas-based automaker into Canada.

Ontario pursuing Tesla investment

Of the 150 documents found as part of the FOI request, just 20 were released to Electric Autonomy. Briefing notes and emails made up most of those 20, some of which were heavily redacted.

One document was an email about another exclusive story from Electric Autonomy on Tesla’s interest in manufacturing in Ontario.

However, from the emails (or portions of emails) that are accessible, it’s clear that the Ontario government was eager to attract the electric vehicle maker.

“Ontario is the ideal destination for Tesla, thanks to our world-class automotive supply base with a growing electric vehicle assembly and battery supply chain footprint, reliable clean energy, critical mineral resources, a world-class workforce, and a thriving research and development (R&D) ecosystem,” reads one briefing note from fall 2022 authored by a senior policy advisor for site planning and coordination at the Automotive Battery Office.

Of the several briefing notes included in the document cache, each contains multiple talking points for government officials about why Tesla should expand their operations in Ontario. Reasons include the end-to-end EV battery supply chain, a talented workforce, R&D opportunities with universities, mining opportunities and a competitive manufacturing landscape.

Tesla’s eye on Canada

In addition to Tesla considering an investment in Ontario (perhaps as a manufacturing destination or another area), representatives of the automaker noted they are closely watching other auto sector developments in the province and country.

“The multi-billion-dollar wave of investment by the industry into cathode, battery and EV production in Ontario and Quebec has also been noticed over the past months. We also observed Bloomberg NEF battery supply chain ranking — putting Canada in the #2 spot, behind only China for battery materials processing and battery manufacturing,” reads a Dec. 2022 email from Iain Myrans, national senior manager of public policy and development for Canada at Tesla.

“Ministers Champagne and Fedeli have both been in touch with me regularly to signal that Canada and Ontario will be ready to ensure Tesla gets a competitive and level playing field for any future investments.”

Tesla’s other Canadian activities

Large portions of the documents released by the provincial government as part of the FOI request were redacted.

The Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade cited privacy laws as the reason for the redactions. However, the redactions extended to Tesla’s current activities in the province.

Among those so-called proprietary details is information about Tesla’s R&D facilities in Canada. The documents mention the well-known Jeff Dahn Lab, funded by Tesla, at Dalhousie University in Halifax. But the names of the other research locations are blacked out.

Aside from the Dahn lab (which researches lithium-ion battery technology), the government is claiming information about the others is covered by third party privacy laws (“a mandatory exemption for records that would reveal confidential information sent to the ministry by a third party, and which would prejudice their competitive position if released or result in undue loss”).

However, Electric Autonomy has been able to independently verify the location and activities of at least three other Tesla R&D facilities in the country:

  • The first is a research centre in Dartmouth, N.S., (separate from the Dahn lab) that opened in 2016;
  • The second is a Mississauga-based research lab that is likely the result of Tesla’s acquisition of battery technology company Springpower International in 2021; and
  • The third known Tesla R&D operation is in the company’s Markham, Ont., facility that is involved in battery development, factory design, charging infrastructure and battery CNC machine programming.

Future involvement

In the correspondence the government discusses how Tesla is also interested in potential connected and autonomous vehicle research collaborations with “the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. [sic] The Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network.”

In FOIed correspondence from November 2021, Myrans writes to Fedeli, “Tesla is particularly supportive of the talent development components of the [auto] strategy. Helping young Ontarians better understand the exciting career opportunities that exist in advanced manufacturing will certainly help build the Ontario workforce needed to achieve your government’s goals. As attracting new talent can take time, we are hopeful that this aspect of the plan will be prioritized for early action.”

Electric Autonomy continues to cover Tesla’s activities in Canada.

1 comment
  1. To be blunt, a single email from Ontario’s Dallas trade office to Elon Musk doesn’t constitute a serious effort of FDI soliciation. Tesla and Musk get thousands of informal solicitations each year by email, the vast majority of which likely never get read. If one compares the long-term transformational aspects of a Tesla Vehicle/Battery Gigafactory in Ontario against what VW and Stellantis might bring to the province, the ROI delta is a thousandfold in Tesla’s favour, because Tesla will dominate EV technology for decades into the future. VW and Stellantis may not even get past first base as the EV landscape shifts under their feet. I say shame on Trudeau and Doug Ford for not making a full-court press on Cinderella at the ball, rather than engaging with the ugly sisters.

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