Innovation minister aims to make Canada a battery and EV powerhouse

Evan Pivnick, a program manager at Clean Energy Canada, said the country has come an incredible distance in building its electric vehicle and battery supply chain in the last year and “Champagne and his team absolutely deserve credit.”

“I think where we started the year, we are so vastly ahead of what most industry folks would have predicted that we were able to achieve,” he said.

But Pivnick said there is still much more to do if Canada is going to stay in competition to become a powerhouse in the sector.

His firm recently issued an analysis saying that, with the announcements made in the last two years, the industry will be supporting between 60,000 and 110,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributing between $12 billion and $19 billion to the national economy by 2030.

Pivnick said if Canada “plays its cards right” that can grow to 250,000 jobs and $48 billion in GDP.

That will require a comprehensive battery strategy, pushing Canada’s automakers to convert almost all their assembly capacity to produce electric cars, adding new mines, and making massive investments in battery materials, cathode production and recycling.

It requires a rapid expansion of electricity supply to power everything with clean energy, given that one of Canada’s biggest selling points abroad is the abundance of clean power.


Pivnick said it also requires a workforce transition plan — something the Liberals have been promising for years but have yet to deliver.

“We need to start working on worker transition right now, so that the autoworker today is an electric vehicle assembly worker tomorrow,” he said.

“We need new skills in battery material manufacturing, figuring out how oilpatch workers can work in chemical industry in Alberta. Like there’s all sorts of really cool opportunities, but they’re not just going to happen.”

All of Canada’s auto plants are in the midst of some level of retooling for electric vehicles, though none have promised a complete conversion. Multiple new and expanding mining projects are either underway or in discussion. At least four battery materials plants are in the works.

In March, LG Energy Solution and Stellantis announced a $5-billion investment to build Canada’s first gigafactory, a term coined by Tesla to describe large-scale battery production plants.

Pivnick said Canada needs at least one more major gigafactory and two or three smaller ones by 2030. It also needs to push domestic demand for electric vehicles higher, and hope that the United States can do the same.

Most people think of southern Ontario when they think of Canada’s auto sector, but there is a geographical expansion underway. Two of the battery material plants in construction are in Becancour, a small city of 12,000 people about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City.

In July, Belgium’s Umicore announced a $1.5-billion investment to build a cathode materials production plant just outside of Kingston, Ont.

Kingston and the Islands Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen said the plant is huge for the region, which is heavily dependent on public service jobs in health and education.

Champagne said the electric vehicle supply chain is a “golden opportunity” for Canada with “dire consequences” for workers if we don’t seize the moment.

But after the success of the last two years, he said, the world has taken notice.

“For me, I think the best is yet to come,” he said.

“My phone is ringing like never before.”

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