Published on February 24th, 2017 | by James Ayre0
Ontario Environment Minister’s Former Chief Of Staff Leaves To Work For Tesla, Accusations Of Conflict Of Interest Follow
February 24th, 2017 by James Ayre
The Ontario environment minister’s chief of staff, Ian Myrans, left his position earlier this month to go and work for Tesla. Following this announcement, some politicians have raised questions about a possible conflict of interest as regards the province’s very generous electric vehicle incentives (up to CAD$14,000).
Specifically, the questions being raised concern the decision we recently covered regarding changes to that EV rebate. For electric vehicle purchases in the CAD$75,000 to CAD$150,000 price category, a cap of CAD$3,000 was dropped, effectively making Tesla buyers eligible for rebates of CAD$6,000–14,000 instead of just CAD$3,000.
So, what’s the full story here?
It should probably be stated up front that Ontario’s electric vehicle rebate program isn’t actually administered by the Environment Minister’s office, but by the Ministry of Transportation.
As the Environment Minister, Glen Murray, has noted: “First of all, Ian didn’t work for the minister of transportation who made the decision. The decision on this was made almost a year ago … it wasn’t a decision he was directly involved in.” That seems to be a rather important point, no?
“As soon as Ian was aware — and that was quite recently — that he was going to go pursue a position in the private sector, he immediately … went to the integrity commissioner and rules were put in place about his involvement,” Murray continued.
“He followed the very letter of the law and the spirit of it.”
To give an idea of the sorts of criticisms that have been lobbed in recent days, here’s a bit from Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown: “It doesn’t pass the smell test. … You’ve got someone that is leaving a minister’s office and going to a company that is now benefitting from these decisions.”
Yes, and I would normally agree … except that the office in question wasn’t the primary decision maker, and the former chief of staff wasn’t even involved in it at all. So, how are Brown’s comments anything but a cheap smear?
Granted, this is politics that we’re talking about — at this point, everything in politics seems to have degenerated to nothing but belief, identity, and projection, so maybe it doesn’t even matter that there isn’t any actual truth to the comments? Maybe comments like these are nothing but rallying cries at this point.
The Star provides a bit more:
“Murray’s office said the decision to remove the $3,000 cap on that price category was made in mid-2016, several months after the new rebate program was first announced, and wasn’t revealed until earlier this month. It is retroactive to January 1.
“Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca defended the electric vehicle incentives, saying they are helping to get gasoline-powered cars off the road.
“’Having an enhanced incentive, which we announced months ago, is something that helps give people the opportunity to participate in the fight against climate change,’ he told reporters.
“’We know that the transportation sector accounts for 35% of all greenhouse gas emissions,’ Del Duca added, noting most subsidies help lower the prices for many electric cars down to the mid-$30,000 to $40,000 range middle-class families can afford.”
It’s a good point, if the intent is simply to reduce regional air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, then incentivizing the purchase of all classes of vehicles makes sense — after all, someone who normally buys $100,000 luxury cars isn’t going to buy a Nissan LEAF, but they may well be willing to go with a Tesla Model S with a financial push.
While I understand that incentivizing the purchase of luxury cars with tax dollars leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths (it does in mine), if the government is truly intending to lower emissions, then the new approach makes (at least some) sense.