Manitoba EV incentives finally ready to roll

Manitobans who buy or lease electric vehicles may now apply for the rebates NDP Leader Wab Kinew promised during the 2023 provincial election campaign.

As of July 2, any Manitoba resident who buys or leases an electric vehicle with a manufacturer’s suggested list price below $70,000 may now apply for a rebate of up to $4,000, provided the purchase or lease is made within the province, Environment Minister Tracy Schmidt announced.

Anyone who buys or leases a used electric vehicle from a Manitoba dealer is eligible for a rebate of up to $2,500.

Retroactive rebates are available for electric vehicle purchases or leases made within the province from Aug. 1 to July 2.

The new rebates make Manitoba the seventh Canadian province to offer incentives for EV purchases that may be applied on top of federal rebates of up to $5,000 for long-range electric vehicles.

“We’ve seen jurisdictions like British Columbia and Quebec introduced these rebate programs early on and we’ve seen great uptake in in them hitting their targets,” Schmidt said Tuesday in Winnipeg’s South St. Vital neighbourhood, accompanied by the owners of two electric vehicles.  

The environment minister blamed the former PC government for dragging its heels on electric rebates.

As of June 1, 2023, only 1.8 per cent of the personal vehicles in Manitoba — 16,345 out of 905,763 cars and light trucks overall — were hybrid or fully electric, according to Manitoba Public Insurance registration data.

That ratio improved to 2.4 per cent this June, or 21,942 out of 929,236 vehicles, according to MPI.

The institution of EV rebates in Manitoba is thus a “no-brainer” in a province with low electricity prices, said Jim Stanford, an economist with the Centre for Future Work in Vancouver.

“We’ve seen vehicle penetration reaching up to 20 per cent of new vehicle sales in B.C. and Quebec, compared to only about three per cent in Manitoba, according to the latest data,” he said in a telephone interview from Victoria, B.C. 

“So that scale of subsidy makes a lot of sense and having it layered on top of the federal subsidy, at least for a few more months, will really get the ball going going on EV sales in Manitoba.”

While the federal government has extended its electric vehicle subsidy to 2026, the rebates are only guaranteed to remain in place until the next federal election, slated for 2025.

A woman standing next to a car in a garage.
The NDP government held their announcement in the River Park South home of Shelley Kowalchuk, who owns two electric vehicles and plans to replace one of them. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

The Manitoba government has set aside $6.25 million a year over the next four years for its electric vehicle rebates. Fort Whyte PC MLA Obby Khan said if the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, that money could be better spent on public transit.

The potential PC leadership candidate — Khan is among several MLAs mulling a run — claimed interest in EVs is waning.

“Not everyone in Manitoba is looking to buy a $70,000 vehicle. Actually, only a select few people are probably looking to buy a vehicle for $70,000,” Khan said at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Khan also said the province has not addressed a looming hydro-electric generating capacity crunch that could be exacerbated when more consumers replace personal vehicles with internal combustion engines with electric vehicles.

Schmidt said the former PC government is to blame for the capacity crunch because it did not build any new hydro-electric dams or wind farms.

She said her government is still working on a new energy framework but would not say when that would be made public.