Two electric vehicle groups held demonstrations on Saturday against the provincial government’s proposed $150 tax on the vehicles.
The tax was announced as part of the province’s 2021-22 budget, released on Tuesday. Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said Saskatchewan is the first province in Canada to implement a tax on electric vehicles.
The proposed tax would start on Oct. 1, 2021. That has vehicle owners upset about the timing and reasoning.
The SaskEV Society held a rally in Saskatoon and the Tesla Owners of Saskatchewan held a demonstration in Regina, both on Saturday afternoon. In Saskatoon, vehicle owners drove through downtown Saskatoon to bring attention to electric vehicles in the province.
SaskEv Society president Jason Cruickshank said the tax was disappointing, as the province currently only has about 400 electric vehicles, compared to 50,000 in British Columbia.
“It’s really the wrong time and it’s really too early for us to be looking at some kind of tax on vehicles in this province, especially when our fast-charging network is still so limited,” Cruickshank said.
Cruickshank said his group hopes to see more fast-charging infrastructure — stations where cars can fully charge in 30 minutes — over the next couple of years, but that’s only available along Highway 1 in the province for now.
He said a lack of incentives has also kept the province behind others.
“I think a lot of people are seeing how petty this tax is,” Cruickshank said. “So hopefully, as we sort of draw attention to the electric vehicles that are on our roads in this province, people kind of think about the fact that this is really sending the wrong message.”
The tax has been compared to a similar one in California. However, Cruickshank said the University of California found the fee there could reduce sales by 10 to 24 per cent, and California has incentives that balance the tax.
Electric vehicles are “an important tool for dealing with climate action,” Cruickshank said. “There’s also benefits as far as air pollution and air quality benefits for electric vehicles.”
Joel Murray, the vice-president of the Regina Tesla Owners club, came out to the Saskatchewan Legislature on Saturday. He said the hope was to show how many EVs there actually are in the city and show the group’s concerns about the tax.
“It’s quite a regressive sort of holding back progress to a green transition,” Murray said. “When you look at the market share, now’s not the time to start taxing … an industry that’s just getting started.”
The provincial government has said the tax is needed because electric vehicles contribute to wear and tear on provincial roadways, but they don’t contribute to highway maintenance funding through the provincial fuel tax.
Electric vehicles make up under one per cent of those on the roads in the province, Murray said. He also said electric vehicles are typically mainly used in urban centres, as there aren’t a lot of fast-charging stations along highways.
“The majority of that money that the provincial government takes, they don’t share that with municipalities through revenue sharing, that’s designed specifically for provincial highways,” Murray said.
“So the money that they’re talking about actually won’t be going to where most EVs are driving or even can drive,” he said. “We would be absolutely willing to pay the fee if they were going to install electric vehicle infrastructure on provincial highways so that we could travel.”
Murray said he hopes to see more fast-charging stations along highways as people realize how far electric car technology has come. He said he hopes to simply open a dialogue with the province for consultation before taxation.
“At a time when it’s just starting out, we don’t want to see it get slowed down at all.”