Canada is uniquely positioned to become a “global leader in electric vehicle manufacturing,” says Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, in a fireside chat with Invest in Canada’s CEO Ian McKay at this year’s PDAC.
As countries worldwide begin to electrify their transportation systems, Canada offers unique advantages, the minister said. “Canada offers renewably generated electricity, a skilled workforce, a stable and predictable jurisdiction to operate in, the rule of law – a commodity very much in demand these days – and an abundance of the critical minerals needed for the batteries that power electric vehicles.”
He continued, the “mines to mobility” approach adopted in Canada means “greening” the entire value chain, including mineral extraction, the chemistry involved in processing minerals, battery production, vehicle assembly, and the end-of-life recycling of batteries.
“People are now placing more value on the supply chains, which are moving from global to the regional and shifting from efficiency for resiliency,” Champagne said. “Canada offers enormous opportunities not just for auto manufactures but the whole ecosystem, with significant investment being made by auto manufacturers and the Canadian government.”
In the past six months, he noted, General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis have announced plans to manufacture electric vehicles in Canada in the coming years. Over the past couple of years, he said, about $6 billion has already been invested by auto companies in zero-emissions or low-emission vehicles in Canada.
Last December, the Canadian government also announced that it would invest $3 billion over five years through the Net Zero Accelerator fund. Delivered via the Strategic Innovation Fund, the initiative will drive investment into large emission reducing and job-creating projects across Canada.
The fund will support the development of clean technology solutions across all industries; support clean technology development in Canada’s aerospace and automobile manufacturing areas; and support the development of Canadian battery innovation and industrial ecosystem. All of which build on Canada’s natural resources and leading experts to develop an end-to-end battery ecosystem in Canada.
Champagne said Canada offers enormous opportunities for investment across the entire value chain for the mining industry, from “green mining to green recycling and everything in between.”
Canada also has significant advantages when it comes to investment opportunities, Champagne said. “Canada has a new free trade agreement [North American Free Trade Agreement] with the U.S. and Mexico, which means that companies who open up operations here have access to supply chains and customers across North America.”
Canada trades about $2 billion a day with the U.S., more than the U.S. trades with China, Japan, and the United Kingdom combined, he said. About eight million jobs in the U.S. are dependent on trade with Canada.
The Automotive Products Trade Agreement of 1965, better known as the Canada-U.S. Auto Pact, has led to the integration of supply chains that move parts across the border, often several times, before they end-up in finished products, Champagne noted.
“People have seen how resilient this model is, particularly in the automotive industry, which has created good quality jobs on both sides of the border,” he said.
The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union, he added, also provides access for Canadian-based companies to over 500 million people, one of the largest consumer markets in the world.
A free trade agreement (the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) between Canada and ten countries in the Asia-Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, offers another huge market for Canadian companies.
Champagne noted that Canada is also the only G7 country to have free trade agreements with all the other G7 countries.
“We are uniquely positioned as a place to trade, where companies can trade freely, have the security of supplies, and have access to over 1.5 billion customers,” he said. “When the rest of the world looks so turbulent, Canada offers a beacon of stability where investors want to invest.”
Invest Canada’s McKay noted that from 2017-19 foreign direct investment in Canada increased by 84% and that Canada has also been less impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic than many of its competitors.
Canada can also take advantage of the growing importance of environment, social and governance (ESG), McKay said, with many mining companies now investing in jurisdictions with robust ESG protocols.
“This [ESG] is what consumers want and what is driving investment in the mining sector as it becomes core to the investment decisions made by big investment funds as well as company shareholders,” Champagne said.
Canada comes out “pretty much top” of the list of countries when it comes to offering an ESG framework for companies to operate in, he added. “Whether it’s labour standards, corporate social responsibility, or engagement with First Nation peoples, companies operating in Canada are making a positive difference not only for their shareholders but the communities in which they work.”
(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)