The government is unsure whether its $300 million electric car rebate program has had any effect on the environment.

Originally reported in Blacklock’s Reporter, officials from Transport Canada were unable to tell the Senate national finance committee how much of an impact rebates have had on carbon emissions. 

Transport Canada offers rebates of up to $5,000 for electric cars sold for $45,000 or less.

“What contribution will that make to carbon emissions in Canada?” asked Conservative Senator David Tkachuk. 

Officials told the committee that they have processed 31,000 claims amounting to $165 million so far. Transport Canada said that electric vehicle sales increased from 2% of all vehicle sales to 3% because of the rebate program.

“How many people would have bought vehicles in Canada last year? Millions. So what would the contribution be of those 31,000 vehicles to carbon emissions in Canada? There must be research on this,” Senator Tkachuk asked.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the data with us on cost per tonne,” responded Transport Canada Chief Financial Officer Ryan Pilgrim.

“The entire objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The objective is not to sell the cars. The objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, right?” asked Conservative Senator Elizabeth Marshall.

Several provinces including Quebec and British Columbia have engaged in similar rebate programs at the taxpayers’ expense.

In 2018, the government of Ontario scrapped Canada’s most generous rebate program for electric car purchases — up to $14,000 per car. 

The government of Ontario predicts that by ending the rebates and the cap-and-trade program used to fund them, $1 billion of taxpayer money will be saved over four years. 

In 2017, there were only 7,477 electric vehicles in Ontario — a province of over 13.5 million people.