Backgrounder: Investing to electrify transit systems across the country


Today, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $2.75 billion over five years, that can be accessed starting in 2021, to support the purchase of zero-emission public transit and school buses and enhance public transit systems by switching them to cleaner electrical power. This funding is sourced from $14.9 billion for public transit projects that was outlined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Infrastructure Canada will ensure coordination between this $2.75 billion investment and the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s commitment to invest $1.5 billion in zero-emission buses and associated infrastructure as part of its three year Growth Plan. Together, these initiatives will support the government’s commitment to help operators purchase 5,000 zero emission buses over the next five years.

Investing in public transit infrastructure will build strong communities across the country and deliver a better quality of life for all Canadians. It is part of our plan to create one million jobs, fight climate change, and rebuild a more sustainable and resilient economy.

Cleaner transit systems with greater cost-savings

The Government is increasing ambition for zero-emission buses to improve air quality, make our streets quieter and tackle climate change. With the transportation sector accounting for 25% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, investing in cleaner public transit networks will help increase transit ridership and reduce emissions from buses. While several cities are considering converting their fleets, it’s clear that support is needed to incentivize and accelerate zero-emission bus adoption, in line with procurement cycles. The Government of Canada is committed to work with all orders of government to electrify public transit systems and put more zero-emission vehicles on the road. This work is consistent with Canada’s recent commitment to join a core group of countries under the Zero-Emission Vehicle Transition Council to facilitate a global transition to zero-emission vehicles in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement our commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.

In addition to cleaner commutes, zero-emission bus adoption can offer operators significant cost-savings, spur job creation and promote economic growth now and through recovery. Over time, zero-emission vehicles can be less expensive to operate and maintain. Financing through the Canada Infrastructure Bank and funding provided through Infrastructure Canada is being offered to support and accelerate these cleaner, more cost-effective options.

Canadian leadership on zero emission vehicle manufacturing, technology and materials

Canada has demonstrated global leadership as an automotive manufacturer with expertise in electric vehicles and other non-emitting transportation technologies, as well as a producer of the raw materials required for these technologies. Look no further than our country’s domestic electric bus manufacturers – including BC-headquartered GreenPower Motor Company, Winnipeg-based New Flyer, NovaBus in Saint Eustache, QC., and Lion Electric in Saint Jerome, QC. – to see that Canada has the skilled labour required to make the most of the zero-emission vehicle revolution. Canada is also home to companies with expertise in fuel cell technology, such as Vancouver-based Ballard Power, which is powering buses globally.

Canada is a domestic supplier of many of the raw materials used in today’s emerging battery technology, including aluminum, cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese and nickel. Mining communities such as Cobalt, Ont., are looking at a new rare-metals renaissance to feed the growing global battery industry. Ground-breaking research in battery technology is continuing across Canada, whether it’s at Dalhousie University where Tesla is investing in exclusive research and the Novonix development hub helps industrial clients worldwide, or the University of Calgary’s leading work on solid electrolytes.

Communities making the switch to zero-emission buses

The revolutionary switch to zero emission public transit has already begun. The Government of Canada’s existing programs have supported the purchase of over 300 zero-emission buses including:   

  • In Vancouver, BC, TransLink recently added 15 new battery-electric buses to its fleet, allowing for the full electrification of its route 100, a key milestone towards its longer term objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and transitioning its entire fleet to renewable energy by 2050. Government of Canada support for the new buses came from the federal Gas Tax Fund.
  • In Prince Edward Island, the province has committed to replacing all of its 300 school buses with electric vehicles in the coming years. In November 2020, the province and the Government of Canada announced funding for the first 12 buses and charging stations to move the province towards this goal.  The Government of Canada support of $2.1 million was through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program
  • In Guelph, ON, the municipal government has an electrification strategy that will see it replace 35 operational diesel buses with electric buses and add an additional 30 new electric buses to its fleet. The city will also build a new bus storage facility with charging stations for the buses. The Government of Canada is investing $40 million towards the projects through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

Today’s announcement will provided the needed support to municipalities, transit authorities and school boards to make the switch to zero-emission technologies at the earliest opportunity. Whether it’s large urban centres like Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, or mid-sized cities like Guelph, Halifax and Edmonton, our public transit systems will now have they resources they need to join the zero-emission vehicle revolution. 

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