Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew after election
The New Democratic Party has swept into power in Manitoba, giving the province a new premier-elect and, perhaps, a refreshed perspective on electric vehicle adoption. Photo: Wab Kinew/X (Twitter)

This week’s provincial election gives Canada its first First Nations premier and Manitoba a chance at becoming an EV adoption leader

The New Democratic Party has swept into power in Manitoba, giving the province a new premier-elect and, perhaps, a refreshed perspective on electric vehicle adoption.

This week, NDP leader Wab Kinew unseated Manitoba’s current premier, Progressive Conservative Heather Stefason. In doing so, he’s become the first First Nations premier in Canada. The PCs have been in power since 2016.

Now, the NDP will be building a majority government on a platform with a more aggressive EV agenda than Manitoba has seen before.

The NDP’s eight-part plan includes a platform dedicated to environment. Within that platform, electric and decarbonizing transportation account for 30 per cent of the fifteen priority items highlighted.

Vehicle registration data from Statistic Canada shows Manitoba added 391 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the first half of 2023. Since Q1 2017, just 1,912 BEVs have been registered in Manitoba.

By comparison, transportation in Manitoba accounts for roughly a third of the province’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. That put Manitoba above the national average of 25 per cent GHG due to transportation.

However, says the NDP, despite Manitoba’s low EV adoption rates, the province has some key advantages favouring electric vehicle adoption. These include clean hydro electricity, low utility rates and a significant amount of existing charging infrastructure to support EV use. (Many parking spaces in Manitoba already have access to electricity to support block heaters — commonly used to maintain combustion vehicles in the winter.)

The NDP says now is the time to seize on those advantages and it has a some key points in its platform related to boosting EV adoption in Manitoba.

The plan

The Manitoba NDP’s environmental EV platform goals include:

  • Move transit buses off diesel by building more electric transit buses;
  • Provide rebates for new and used EVs and plug-in hybrids;
  • Build more EV charging stations;
  • Build a clean energy hub to make sure Manitoba is at the forefront of the clean energy economy and to integrate the province’s “hydrogen-focused advantage” with Manitoba’s investments in hydroelectricity and manufacturing, especially transit; and
  • Work with local companies like New Flyer to create new jobs in electric transit and grow the economy.

Within other sections of the NDP’s plan there are nods to building up the ecosystem around EVs, including:

  • Develop a real Critical Minerals Strategy to sustainably grow the critical minerals sector in partnership with Indigenous Peoples;
  • Build a clean energy hub that invests in new charging stations and networks;
  • Increase STEM programming at high schools across the province in coordination with post-secondary institutions.

Some specifics given

While much of the NDP’s plan remains high level, Kinew enunciated one specific detail to the plan during his campaign: rebates.

The rebate the NDP says it will offer is $4,000 for new BEVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle purchases and $2,500 for used ones. This would be in addition to the $5,000 federal incentive for electric vehicles, giving Manitobans up to $9,000 back on a zero-emission vehicle purchase.

The provincial rebate is estimate to cost $7 million per year.

However, no plan has yet been disclosed as to how the NDP will build up the province’s EV charging network to support adoption.

According to data from Natural Resources Canada, Manitoba currently has 162 public Level 2 and DC fast charger stations.

Many of these stations are located along highway corridors and in urban centres. Rural and northern Manitoba remain some of the most sparsely serviced areas for EV chargers in Canada.

Manitoba’s EV future

It remains to be seen how the Manitoba NDP’s plan for EVs in the province will unfold. But there are already some existing positive indicators for the province can build on.

With respect to building up a manufacturing industry, Manitoba already has a local success story in New Flyer — a transit bus maker offering hydrogen, hybrid and electric buses.

Manitoba also has stores of 29 of the 31 key battery minerals — including lithium. According to Manitoba’s Critical Minerals Strategy, there are “almost 50 companies exploring for critical minerals.”

Finally, there is green hydrogen in production in Manitoba, which, thanks to Manitoba’s cheap hydro electricity, has a significant cost advantage in the hydrogen market. H2MB and Charbone Hydrogen are two of the companies producing green hydrogen in the province.

It’s unclear how, exactly, the Manitoba NDP will expand the province’s hydrogen sector.

The date for the NDP government to be sworn in is not yet set.