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Ron Cannan: Most people can't afford EVs – it's immoral to force them on BC

Ron Cannan was elected to Kelowna City Council in 2022. He previously served as Kelowna–Lake Country's MP from 2006 to 2015. He also served on Kelowna City Council from 1996 to 2005.

Contributions published by KelownaNow reflect only the opinions of those who write them, and not necessarily those of KelownaNow or its staff.

This article is my personal view and does not reflect the opinions of Kelowna City Council or the city.

City of Kelowna has a Climate Action Plan as the world is changing. Weather patterns are changing, new technologies are emerging and ways of doing things are shifting. Behaviour of individuals and communities must change to be current, survive and succeed.

Kelowna is leading the change by example, demonstrating our commitment to reduce corporate GHG emissions and is striving to create efficient compact communities.

The BC NDP Government also have their climate action plan and it is called the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 .

However, to me this prescriptive policy appears to be more like a roadmap for economic disaster rather than environmental sustainability.

The Minister of Environment, Hon. George Heyman, introduced this Clean BC climate and economic plan. We have met a few times and he is a nice gentleman. However, he recently announced that he is retiring. So not sure who will be held accountable for the negative economic impact we will all feel from this NDP plan?

That is, the BC Business Council forecasts that this CleanBC plan will negatively impact the economy by $28.1 billion plus result in the loss of about 100,000 jobs by 2030 when the carbon tax rises from the present $65 per tonne to $170 per tonne.

The BC Government is mandating that by 2030, 90 per cent of all light duty vehicle sales be electric powered zero-emission and 100 per cent by 2035. In addition, the CleanBC Roadmap proposes to have 10,000 public EV charging stations installed plus 30 per cent of our population will be commuting by public transit, cycling and walking.

BC is a large and diverse geographic province. Do you think this is reality for the tens of thousands of rural and northern BC communities already suffering from failing infrastructure and -30 below temperatures (not to mention poor healthcare access and severe manufacturing and farming job losses)?

I welcome the investment in cycling safety as I enjoy riding my e-bike and have witnessed several cyclists being injured. Also, fully support being a good steward of our environment and reducing global GHGs.

In addition, I really enjoy being around students and appreciate their infectious youthful energy, curiosity, passion for the environment and naivety.

However, now having over 60-plus years of education and life experience, I can tell you firsthand the school of hard knocks has a high tuition rate.

Plus, after serving in public office for over 20 years I view public policy from a more realistic or pragmatic perspective rather than aspirational or telling people what they want to hear.

<who> Photo credit: 123RF

Even though the BC Government would like to ban natural gas and other fossil fuels, the reality is that fossil fuels are not going away anytime soon. Fossil fuel use is 80 per cent of the world's energy and still growing. They will remain uniquely cost-effective: affordable, reliable, versatile—on a scale of billions of people in thousands of places.

The benefit of continuing fossil fuel use in a world in which eight billion people have the energy they need to survive and flourish outweigh the alternative of an energy-starved world in which most of the world’s population will suffer from poverty and premature death.

Máximo Torero, the chief economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has warned against moving away from natural gas production too soon, arguing more people will starve to death if the consequences are not thought through.

Energy prices have soared following Russia's war on Ukraine — and that has also jacked up the cost of fertilizers, which are produced from natural gas. Global crop yields are now in jeopardy in the months to come.

"If you switch the energy mix too quickly, you will increase the price of energy," he said. "Then you will increase the price of fertilizers, you increase the price of food, more people dying of hunger. So what do you want?"

Before all the climate activists start pulling their hair out and calling me names, I agree that it is important to follow the science. That is why I thought it is vitally important to refer you to Vaclav Smil, one of the most influential thinkers on energy and environmental issues.

Vaclav Smil is a distinguished professor emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba. Vaclav has written 48 books. Bill Gates has read many of his books and said that Vaclav is one of his favourite authors.

The quote below, from Vaclav’s book entitled "How the World Really Works: A Scientist's Guide to Our Past, Present and Future," reinforces why the CleanBC 2030 policy is not realistic considering the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“Annual global demand for fossil carbon is now just above 10 billion tons a year—a mass nearly five times more than the recent annual harvest of all staple grains feeding humanity, and more than twice the total mass of water drunk annually by the world’s nearly 8 billion inhabitants—and it should be obvious that displacing and replacing such a mass is not something best handled by government targets for years ending in zero or five. Both the high relative share and the scale of our dependence on fossil carbon make any rapid substitutions impossible: this is not a biased personal impression stemming from a poor understanding of the global energy system – but a realistic conclusion based on engineering and economic realities.” – Vaclav Smil.

Did you know that BC Hydro themselves have indicated that 20 per cent of their electrical demand is currently being met by imports via aging transmission lines, mostly from the United States? With only a small percentage of BC residents presently driving EVs, BC Hydro is already exporting dollars to purchase electricity that might have been produced at home, supporting jobs and tax generation elsewhere rather than in BC. It’s worth noting that a majority (60 per cent) of electricity generated in the United States is derived from coal, crude oil and other sources that contradict BC’s decarbonization efforts.

Also, the Westside of Okanagan Lake is the most populous area in the province served by only one power line, which has been threatened by wildfires multiple times. BC Hyrdo have no plans in place to twin the power line anytime soon. Plus, due to the provinces climate action policies, the BC Utilities Commission recently rejected an application from FortisBC to build a natural gas pipeline worth $327M in the South Okanagan to deal with the region's growth. FortisBC and BC Hydro indicated that even when Site C (a year behind schedule and 100 per cent over budget) comes on line, our province will not have enough electricity to do everything the BC Government is calling for in its CleanBC climate policy (especially if local governments promote banning natural gas).

Sometimes it is difficult to have a rational and objective discussion with some of you who have a different opinion, as you don’t like it when facts get in the way of your good story. However, I am not making this stuff up. These are just the facts.

I am not against EVs. If you want to buy one then feel free. I am thinking about purchasing a hybrid. Just stop the taxpayer-funded subsidy programs. Government should remove all preferences for electric vehicles and allow them to compete and grow on a free market. Reality is that even with the rebates most poor and middle class British Columbians can't afford to deal with EV cost, range and inconvenience issues—and it's immoral to force them to.

A realistic and legitimate EV policy should reveal whatever potential EVs have to be a cost-effective, including scalable alternative to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, but not harm consumers or the grid by imposing EVs before they are truly cost-effective and scalable.

Many roads and local infrastructure are paid for by gas taxes. With less revenue being generated at the gas pumps, over 30 states are now losing revenue and looking at introducing a new fee for EV owners. The Alberta Government is introducing a $200 annual tax on electric vehicles starting Jan. 1, 2025. In the spirit of fairness and equity, I trust that the BC Government sees dollar signs and won’t want to miss this opportunity and will create a new EV tax (they are politically savvy and will probably wait until after the October election).

Also, new government regulations are forcing developers to add the cost of an EV charger to every new home even if you don’t want one. Just another example of government adding more and more regulations, then wondering why housing is so unaffordable.

I fully support good public policy. However, I don’t think this CleanBC Road Map to 2030 is balanced, realistic or achievable public policy. It appears more delusional than aspirational.

I support a common sense energy freedom policy that welcomes all forms of cost-effective energy including various forms of renewables, which one day may even include hydrogen and nuclear. All with the goal to help preserve and protect our environment while growing our economy.

Then again, the BC government appears to not want to not deal with the real issues like the opioid crisis.

Instead, effective April 1 they will increase the carbon tax by 33 per cent, making virtually everything more expensive and penalizing British Columbians.

Good news is that they will generate more money to be used for new project announcements which then provides them with more photo ops before the upcoming election. Some may say that is a cynical view, from my experience I say that that is more like reality!

Ron Cannan can be reached at or 250-575-1446.

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