Le Canada rate sa cible sur la vente de voitures électriques

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Un objectif vieux de dix ans visant à avoir au moins un demi-million de voitures électriques sur les routes du Canada d’ici la fin de 2018 semble avoir été loin d’être réalisé. En fait, le Canada n’aurait pas atteint le cinquième de sa cible.

La Feuille de route du Canada sur la technologie des véhicules électriques, qui avait été produite en 2009 par des experts notamment pour le ministère des Ressources naturelles, visait à mettre sur les routes 500 000 voitures électriques.

Des données compilées par FleetCarma, qui recense les ventes de véhicules électriques chaque trimestre, suggèrent qu’à la fin de 2018, moins de 100 000 voitures électriques étaient sur les routes canadiennes.

Le rapport signalait que le train des véhicules électriques était déjà en marche et que le Canada n’était pas à bord. Il mentionnait des mesures que le gouvernement et le secteur privé devraient prendre pour s’assurer que le Canada ne passe pas à côté des avantages économiques et environnementaux d’une industrie de véhicules électriques.

Un élément important était la nécessité de coordonner les travaux existants sur les véhicules électriques au Canada entre les constructeurs automobiles et les fabricants de pièces automobiles, les installations de recherche et les cabinets de conseil, et d’assurer une industrie plus cohérente. Des programmes de sensibilisation auprès du public, des investissements dans les infrastructures et des démarches avec des compagnies d’électricité étaient également nécessaires.

Peu de ces mesures ont été mises en place.

« Ce qu’il nous manque, c’est un plan national pour déployer les véhicules électriques, attirer du capital et compétitionner pour combler la demande de voitures électriques », a souligné Dan Woynillowicz, directeur des politiques de Clean Energy Canada.

Les libéraux n’ont pas encore de plan

En 2016, les libéraux avaient promis une stratégie nationale pour les véhicules électriques d’ici la fin de l’année 2018. Jusqu’ici, ils n’ont pas encore donné suite à leur promesse.

Une porte-parole du ministre des Transports, Marc Garneau, n’a pas pu dire quand cette stratégie sera déposée.

Au cours des trois dernières années, le gouvernement fédéral a dépensé 182 millions pour acheter et installer davantage de stations de recharge pour les véhicules.

Bob Oliver, directeur général de Tech-K.O., qui aide les clients à commercialiser leurs technologies de véhicules électriques, faisait partie du comité qui a rédigé la feuille de route. Il a déclaré que l’objectif de 500 000 véhicules n’était pas une prédiction, mais une aspiration.

Lorsque la feuille de route a été écrite, il n’y avait pas de voiture rechargeable disponible au Canada. Maintenant, il y a plus d’une vingtaine de modèles.

Trois provinces se démarquent

Les ventes de voitures sont presque exclusivement limitées aux trois provinces — l’Ontario, le Québec et la Colombie-Britannique — qui ont instauré de remises en argent pour rendre les voitures comparables en coût initial avec des voitures à essence. L’Ontario a annulé son système de rabais en juillet.

L’Ontario, le Québec et la Colombie-Britannique représentaient 97 % de tous les véhicules rechargeables vendus au Canada entre 2013 et 2018.

La plupart des autres provinces ont très peu de bornes de recharge publiques, ce qui constitue l’un des principaux obstacles à la confiance du public en ce qui concerne l’achat d’une voiture rechargeable — les acheteurs potentiels craignent de manquer de jus et de n’avoir nulle part où recharger leurs batteries.

Le Québec dispose maintenant d’un système de quotas qui oblige les concessionnaires automobiles à vendre un pourcentage minimum de voitures électriques, sans quoi ils doivent payer une pénalité. En novembre, la Colombie-Britannique a élargi sa politique sur les véhicules à zéro émission pour y inclure qu’aucune voiture à essence ne pourra être vendue après 2040.

Neuf pays, dont la France, le Royaume-Uni et la Norvège, prévoient éliminer graduellement tout ou en partie les véhicules à essence entre 2025 et 2050.

Le Canada a signé une nouvelle alliance internationale pour passer aux voitures électriques lorsque les ministres et les responsables se sont rencontrés en Pologne dans le cadre des plus récents pourparlers des Nations unies sur les changements climatiques.

M. Oliver a indiqué que la préférence des Canadiens pour les gros véhicules comme les VUS et les camionnettes est l’un des défis à la vente de voitures électriques.

Près de 23 millions de voitures de tourisme, de VUS et de camionnettes sont immatriculés au Canada. Au cours de la dernière décennie, les Canadiens ont accru leur intérêt pour les VUS et les camionnettes. À l’heure actuelle, environ les deux tiers des véhicules vendus au Canada appartiennent à ces catégories et ils n’incluent pratiquement aucun modèle électrique.

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Premier unveils ‘open for business’ signs as Ontario’s unemployment rate remains low

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As Premier Doug Ford unveiled the first of his “open for business” border-crossing signs in Sarnia, Statistics Canada revealed Ontario unemployment continues to hover near its lowest rate in a generation.

“Doesn’t that sign look beautiful?” Ford said Friday of the “Welcome to Ontario: Open For Business” signage near the Blue Water Bridge to Michigan.

Signs like this will be going up along Ontario’s border with the United States. The first one went up in Sarnia on Nov. 2, 2018.
Signs like this will be going up along Ontario’s border with the United States. The first one went up in Sarnia on Nov. 2, 2018.  (Julie Jocsak / The St. Catharines Standard)

“You’ve been hearing for months that we’re going to put signs right across every single border in Ontario to tell the world, especially our great neighbours to the south, that Ontario is open for business,” said the premier, who was elected in June.

There will eventually be signs placed at all 18 of the province’s land crossings with American states, but Ford’s government is still calculating the price tag for the initiative.

NDP MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) said the job numbers underscore the fact that the signs are a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“We’ve seen this government stumbling along,” Fife told reporters at Queen’s Park.

Ford’s announcement came the same morning as Statistics Canada’s monthly jobs survey revealed last month’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 per cent, a decrease of 0.3 percentage points since September.

“While employment was little changed in Ontario, there were fewer people looking for work, lowering the unemployment rate … On a year-over-year basis, employment in the province rose by 83,000 due to more full-time work,” said Statistics Canada.

That’s a 1.2 per cent increase in employment since this time last year.

The premier also touted his repeal of the previous Liberal government’s labour reforms that would have increased the $14-an-hour minimum wage to $15 in January and given employees two paid sick days and other workplace protections.

“That was just hurdle after hurdle for small businesses, medium businesses, large businesses,” said Ford, a wealthy businessman who previously ran his family’s label-printing company.

“We’re getting rid of as many regulations as possible,” he said.

But Fife warned that his cuts will force workers to “make tough choices.”

“Without paid sick days, they’ll have to choose between taking their kid to the doctor when she’s sick, or keeping the day’s pay she needs to care for her family,” she said.

“Ontarians who work hard deserve more respect than that.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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Bank of Canada raises interest rate, this time to 1.75%

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The Bank of Canada has raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point for the fifth time since last summer, pushing up the cost of borrowing for Canadians.

The bank’s rate is now set at 1.75 per cent.

Known as the target for the overnight rate, the benchmark is what Canada’s big banks charge each other for short-term loans. It filters down to consumers, because it affects the rates the banks offer their customers for things like variable rate mortgages and savings accounts.

Canada’s central bank kept its interest rate at record lows for several years to stimulate the economy following the economic slowdown of 2008, but has since begun to ratchet it higher as the economy gets back on sounder footing.

Economists are expecting a few more rate hikes to come, but the bank hinted on Wednesday that there may not be as many increases as some economists have been expecting.

« In determining the appropriate pace of rate increases, [the bank] will continue to take into account how the economy is adjusting to higher interest rates, given the elevated level of household debt, » the bank said.

In explaining its decision to raise the rate, the bank noted the recently announced free trade deal with the United States and Mexico as a reason for optimism about Canada’s economy.

The bank also said it expects household spending to increase at « a healthy pace. »

The bank’s next decision on its interest rate is expected in six weeks on Dec. 5.

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Wynne government ignored warnings about borrowing billions to fund hydro rate cuts, committee told

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The defeated Liberal government ignored numerous warnings from top civil servants that its scheme to borrow billions to lower electricity prices a full 25 per cent was a “bad idea,” says the former deputy minister of energy.

Serge Imbrogno told a legislative committee Tuesday bureaucrats were asked for options to further reduce hydro rates by former premier Kathleen Wynne’s government in 2016 after waiving the 8 per cent HST on hydro bills, but the financing plan came out of the blue from the office of then-energy minister Glenn Thibeault.

“We were a little bit shocked because it was pushing out costs today to future ratepayers,” Imbrogno, now deputy minister of the environment, said at Premier Doug Ford’s select committee on financial transparency examining the $15 billion provincial deficit.

“More debt, higher cost going forward. Someone has to pay that.”

Both Imbrogno and cabinet secretary Steve Orsini — who also headed the civil service under Wynne — testified they repeatedly expressed worries about the feasibility of the scheme to the Liberals, including in briefing notes to cabinet warning of higher costs and accounting issues later red-flagged by Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.

Among the potential trouble spots were the risk that charges to ratepayers for the increased borrowing, to amortize costs of recent electricity system improvements over a longer period, could be ruled unconstitutional as a tax.

The warnings were issued as the government was failing in the polls with last spring’s election approaching.

“In their view, the objective of providing rate relief superseded the concerns that I had,” Orsini told the six Progressive Conservative and three New Democrat MPPs on the committee.

“I had significant, substantial concerns…the public service would not have recommended or supported this.”

Conservative MPP Ross Romano (Sault Ste. Marie) — whose government has kept the Liberal hydro rate reduction plan in place and promised a further 12 per cent cut — said the bureaucrats did their best but hit a “brick wall” with Wynne’s cabinet on the issue.

Asked if Ford will axe the hydro bill rate relief, Romano replied: “That’s not what the committee is here to determine.” He also called the Liberal hydro plan a “bad idea.”

In a bid to turn the proceedings against the Conservatives, New Democrat MPP John Vanthof asked Orsini and Imbrogno if they would sound warnings “in the same manner” if they believed the Ford government was making unwise policy decisions.

Vanthof cited the new premier’s decision to axe the cap-and-trade plan to fight climate change, which Ontario’s independent Financial Accountability Office said Tuesday will cost the province’s treasury $3 billion over four years.

“There is that interface between government setting policy and the public service speaking truth to power, but also then implementing government policies,” Orsini said, without referring to a specific situation.

In cases like the Liberal hydro plan, the job of the civil service is to move ahead at the direction of the government with the objective to “mitigate” problems with a policy, he added.

Vanthof said he raised the question because “the same thing could be happening right now…who’s saying the public service isn’t being put under exactly the same pressure now on something like cap and trade?”

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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Canadian doctors are suffering from burnout at an ‘alarming’ rate, survey finds

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One in four Canadian physicians suffers from burnout, according to a survey of the profession.

Released on Wednesday, the poll by the Canadian Medical Association also shows significant rates of depression and suicidal ideation (thoughts) among the nation’s doctors.

“To see these results reported is alarming,” said CMA president Dr. Gigi Osler, warning that poor physician health can impact patient care.

Residents, or doctors in training, along with female physicians report the highest rates of problems, according to the CMA National Physician Health Survey: A National Snapshot.

The findings are consistent with those reported in other jurisdictions and are being made public the day before 500 people — mostly doctors — from around the world gather in Toronto for the International Conference on Physician Health. The conference is held every two years and is organized by the Canadian, American, and British Medical Associations.

The CMA survey was conducted online last year with almost 3,000 physicians and residents. It is the first time a study of this extent has been done on the Canadian medical workforce and will serve as a baseline for future research.

According to the findings, one in three Canadian physicians screens positive for depression.

To assess participants for suicidal ideation, they were asked if they had thought about taking their own lives. Nineteen per cent responded that they had done so within their lifetime and 8 per cent reported doing so in the last year.

Osler said what strikes her most about the findings is the large number of doctors reporting both high levels of resilience and burnout.

Some 82 per cent reported being highly resilient, or able to bounce back from hardships.

Osler said that tells her physicians are doing well when it comes to personal self-care but are encountering trouble when it comes to external factors such as workplace pressures.

“The complexity of medicine is changing,” she said.

Patients are getting older and have more complex medical problems, and physicians have more therapeutic options to choose from, she noted.

There is more administration, bureaucracy and paperwork, and at the same time health-care resources are decreasing, Osler continued.

“High workload, high stress and low resources,” are a recipe for burnout, she said. “We need to start focusing on change in the system because physician health has to be a shared responsibility.”

The survey found that residents have a 48 per cent increase in odds of experiencing burnout, a 95 per cent increase in odds of depression and a 72 per cent increase in odds of suicidal ideation at some point in their lives compared to other physician groups.

Osler said contributing factors include low workplace control, school-to work transitioning, and ongoing examinations and tests.

For women physicians, the survey found a 23 per cent increase in odds of experiencing burnout, a 32 per cent increase in odds of depression and a 31 per cent increase in odds of lifetime suicidal ideation compared to their male colleagues.

Osler noted that even outside medicine, women report higher levels of exhaustion and greater domestic responsibilies, for example, child care.

The survey found more than 80 per cent of respondents are aware of health programs tailored specifically to physicians, but only 15 per cent take advantage of them. Reasons for not accessing them include not being aware of them, believing their problems were not severe enough and being ashamed to seek help.

A 2016 article in the CMAJ stated that medicine has the highest rate of suicide of any profession.

Osler said more research on this is required.

Dr. Murray Erlich, 57, of Toronto said burnout is what caused him to make a slight change in his career trajectory a year ago.

He went from practising psychiatry to becoming a certified life coach and many of his clients are physicians and residents experiencing burnout.

With much first-hand experience on the subject, he said there is a stigma in the profession that deters some from seeking help.

It is linked to a long-standing culture that sends a message to doctors to show confidence and hide vulnerability, Erlich said.

But there is a growing awareness of the problem, even in medical schools, which today include a focus on physician health, he noted.

Theresa Boyle is a Toronto-based reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle

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Canada’s jobless rate declines slightly with hike in part-time work

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The job market bounced back last month with a gain of 63,000 positions, edging the unemployment rate lower to 5.9 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday.

September’s increase in employment was largely driven by gains in part-time work, with part-time jobs up by around 80,000.

September’s gains were also almost entirely in Ontario and British Columbia, largely in construction, with little change in the other provinces.

On a year-over-year basis, Canada has gained 222,000 jobs since September 2017.

Last month’s job gains indicate volatility continues in the jobs market after August saw a decline of more than 51,000 positions, when the unemployment rate was set at 6.0 per cent.

And the labour force survey found all the job gains were made by workers in the core 25 to 54 age range with virtually no change in youth employment.

Statistics Canada says September’s increase in employment was largely driven by gains in part-time work. (Canadian Press)

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