As purchasers of goods and services, governments certainly have a role to play in supporting and growing domestic industries. Altogether, federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as government-run agencies, procure approximately $200 billion each year. If used strategically, this procurement would act as a sizeable amount of economic stimulus that can bolster industrial development, incubate new technologies and innovations and create jobs.17 To accomplish these goals, government agencies programmed to seek out lowest-cost suppliers must recalibrate their thinking and look more broadly at the value of contracts to the domestic economy.
In recent years, Canada committed to lowering emissions through its vehicle fleet. In 2016, at a tri-nation summit, Canada, Mexico and the United States agreed to deploy more ZEVs across government-run agencies.18 Canada is also a signatory to the 2016 Government Fleet Declaration that commits to accelerating low-emission and electric vehicles into the fleet mix and encourage other provincial and municipal governments to do the same.19 Following this commitment, the federal government announced its intent to ensure ZEVs or hybrids comprise 100 per cent of all new light-duty administrative fleet purchases by 2030.20 21 Natural Resource Canada operationalizes this fleet commitment through its Greening Government Fleet guideline released in 2018.
Despite this noble effort, the government’s approach is not coordinated with Canada’s industrial development objectives.
In fairness, at the time in which Canada first made these commitments there were few, if any, Canadian-made products available to meet the government’s demand. Only some Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) models, including the Windsor-built Chrysler Pacifica, were viable options, a fact that on its own should have sent alarm bells ringing throughout the halls of government.
Thankfully, the landscape is beginning to change. Production of EVs is coming to Canada with investments in GM Ingersoll, Stellantis’ Windsor Assembly Plant and Ford Oakville in the near future.
Further, it is the government’s own stated objective to advance and expand this industrial footprint of EV and battery production domestically. However, government procurement policy and the ambitions of fleet emissions reduction must compliment Canada’s industrial policy. Public dollars must support domestic investment wherever possible.
17 Canadian Collaborative Procurement Initiative, https://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/app-acq/app-collaborat-procur/index-eng.html
18 Natural Resources Canada, Greening Government Fleets: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/energy/pdf/buildings/NRCan_GreeningGovFleets_e.pdf
19 Clean Energy Ministerial (2016), Government Fleet Declaration: Government Fleet Declaration:
20 Natural Resources Canada, Greening Government Fleets.
21 Liberal Party 2021 Election Platform – Zero Emission Vehicles: https://liberal.ca/our-platform/zero-emissions-vehicles/
Further extending the objectives of the Greening Government Fleet program, federal and provincial governments shall establish a joint fund that provides provincial and municipal procuring agencies the financial support to renew existing vehicle fleets with low-emission or ZEVs. Requirements that procurement bids include vehicles assembled in Canada or that contain significant levels of Canadian parts content shall apply wherever possible.