Saskatchewan’s electric vehicle owners were surprised and disappointed on budget day when the government announced a new annual $150 tax on electric vehicles.
“If I could sum it up in one word, it would be ‘short-sighted,” said Saskatoon resident Dalibor Slavik, one of the 403 electric vehicle owners in Saskatchewan.
“In terms of being short-sighted, what I mean by that is we’re trying to be responsible; we’re trying to make the planet sustainable for our children and great grandchildren. And I think if people do this they should be rewarded, and not penalized.”
— SaskEV (@saskevca) April 6, 2021
The recent announcement from the provincial government has many (EV) electric vehicle owners frustrated. Saskatchewan is now the only province to have a specific tax for EVs. Provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec, as well as the federal government, provide multiple incentives for individuals and businesses that make the switch to electric transportation.
The government’s rationale for this new tax is that the provincial fuel tax of 15 cents per litre helps cover the cost of road maintenance across Saskatchewan. EVs do not burn fuel, and are therefore not subject to the fuel tax.
“This is the start to recognize that we need to have fairness across the system,” said Environment Minister Warren Kaeding in an interview with CTV News Regina. “Everybody is contributing to road maintenance and repair.”
“How much of the road infrastructure cost is not covered in our municipal tax?” Slavik said. “In our provincial tax? In our federal tax? Or in our SGI licensing contributions?”
Slavik is also disappointed by the lack of incentives for the other environmentally conscious decisions he and his family have made.
“I didn’t get a rebate on … my hybrid vehicles or my Tesla,” he said. “Whereas in other parts of the world you do get a rebate. They acknowledge that you’re doing something to help the planet and they give you something for it. And in Saskatchewan it’s almost like it’s a punishment.”
Josh Hodgson lives in Winnipeg and is an owner of a Tesla Model 3. He had several reasons for buying an EV last year.
“Number One, to pollute less and emit less carbon emissions,” Hodgson said. “Number Two was affordability. Over the long run the electric vehicle, I found with my calculations, was cheaper or just as comparable to a reasonably priced conventional vehicle. And Number Three, they’re just cooler, and a lot of fun to drive.”
However, Hodgson was mostly unconcerned about the possibility of Manitoba instituting a similar tax to what Saskatchewan drivers are facing.
“I don’t think they would,” he said. “I haven’t heard of anything about it but then you get word because Saskatchewan does it, Manitoba and Alberta are pretty similar governments, so maybe it will be like one person leading the pack.”
Manitoba’s provincial government does not have an incentive for motorists to switch to EVs. However, Manitoba Hydro, which provides the province with 97% of its power, does tout the benefits of motorists switching to EVs.
This dependence on hydroelectric power is giving Hodgson some reassurance that the government will not follow Saskatchewan’s lead in introducing a new tax.
Back in Saskatchewan, Slavik is disappointed with the government’s move, but has faith that the EV community in Saskatchewan will continue to grow and be able to lobby for incentives for electric vehicles and other renewable energy technology.
“The more voices there are, maybe they’ll be able to change something going forward,” Slavik said. “We can only hope.”
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment was contacted and did not provide further comments, instead referring back to the statements made by Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer on April 7:
“It’s a road use fee, it is to accommodate fairness … it’s two different conversations, this is road use and maintenance for road users, it’s another conversation about the environmental soundness of moving towards electric vehicles.”