Source: X/Facebook

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling on the federal government to match or even outdo the harsh tariffs the United States has put on Chinese-made electric vehicles and other imports.

Ford boasted on X that his government had secured $43 billion in handouts for the EV industry in Ontario. To protect those investments from China’s “artificially cheap” EV production, he wants Canada to follow the U.S. and make Chinese EVs unwelcome in the Canadian market.

“I’m calling on the federal government to immediately match or exceed U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports, including at least a 100% tariff on Chinese electric vehicles,” Ford said. “Taking every advantage of low labour standards and dirty energy, China is flooding the market with artificially cheap electric vehicles. Unless we act fast, we risk Ontario and Canadian jobs.”

The U.S. announced tariffs on $18 billion in imported goods from China, including a quadrupling of taxes on EVs, bringing the duties that China would have to pay to do business up to over 100%.

Ford honed in on the billions his government has helped spend on the EV industry and the importance he sees in protecting those investments.

“This has been an all-hands-on-deck achievement, working side-by-side with the federal government and our private sector labour partners,” Ford said. “As governments, we need to do everything in our power to protect their jobs and the paycheques they take home.”

Jerome Gessaroli, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, told True North in an interview that although he’s generally opposed to tariffs, in this instance, it’s “complicated.”

He said the tariffs would effectively stop the importation of Chinese EVs into the Canadian market. 

After the U.S. announced the tariffs, China threatened retaliation immediately. Gessaroli said Canada can expect the same.

Due to the cheap cost and “sophisticated technology” of China’s EVs, Gessaroli said that if the vehicles were permitted into Canada, China would take a “non-trivial” share of that Canadian market.

He said cutting Chinese competition out of Canada could cause domestic companies to become less aggressive in designing more cost-competitive vehicles.

Despite the adverse effects that the tax could have on the free market, Gessaroli thinks that the federal government should listen to Ford and impose a tariff on Chinese EVs.

He said that although industry reasons were a significant factor for the U.S. when they imposed tariffs on Chinese EVs, privacy and security concerns were noted as well.

“These electric vehicles are connected, so they’re all wirelessly connected together to different sources. Insert information is always transmitted,” Gessaroli said. “There are all kinds of sensors and cameras on EVs, and there are concerns about whether some of this information from these Chinese EVs that would operate in North America could lead to privacy issues if that information got back to the Chinese government.”

Though Gessaroli generally believes in the benefits of a free market, he thinks national security should be prioritized over free -market trading.

“At the end of the day, I believe that Canada will fall in line with the United States and have similar tariffs on Chinese EVs. To me it would be too much to go against the Americans on an important part of the economy, the automotive sector,” Gessaroli said.

Ford noted this relationship as well in his announcement on X.

“Now’s the time to work with our U.S. partners to deepen and strengthen home-grown, U.S.-Canada supply chains. Now’s the time to protect good, hard-earned Ontario and Canadian jobs by matching U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports.”

However, according to Gessaroli, Canada’s EV policy is currently at odds with that of its American counterpart on the EV front in relation to China.

Canada’s provincial and federal governments subsidize the purchase of EV vehicles without distinction of origin, so tax dollars can be used to purchase Chinese-made vehicles in Canada.

In the U.S., only EVs made in North America have been eligible to receive EV purchase subsidies.

“We’re actually subsidizing Canadians, potentially to buy an automobile that’s been produced in China. Right now, there’s a discrepancy between Canada—U.S. policy.”