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Conservatives, NDP should be 'celebrating' EV deals: industry minister

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Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne says federal opposition parties should be “celebrating” the recently announced electric vehicle deals, despite their criticisms the Liberals refuse to make public the terms and conditions laid out in the contracts.

In an interview airing Sunday with CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos, Champagne insisted “every country in the world would be rejoicing” at the agreements, framing them as generational deals, which cumulatively will create thousands of jobs.

“We should be celebrating,” he said, when asked whether the federal government will ever publicize the contracts signed with EV manufacturers. “We're building the industrial capacity of the future, and Canada is winning.”

“When we're winning, and we're ambitious, we should all celebrate as Canadians,” Champagne added. “There's nothing politics about that. This is about winning.”

Since spring of 2022, the federal government has announced several major investments in EV manufacturing and supply chain deals, including upgrades to Stellantis’ plants so the company can produce electric vehicles, and plans to provide approximately $13 billion in subsidies over the next decade, in order to see Volkswagen build its first overseas battery manufacturing plant in southwestern Ontario.

Last month, the federal government also announced it’d reached a deal with Honda to see the Japanese automaker build a $15-billion EV supply chain in Canada, to the tune of $2.5 billion each from the federal and Ontario governments.

In speaking about the Volkswagen deal, Champagne told Kapelos on CTV News Channel’s Power Play last year he would not offer details of the deal despite repeated questions, suggesting the information was “commercially sensitive.”

But the Conservatives and NDP have raised concerns about the lack of transparency in the deals, specifically how much taxpayer money is going to foreign corporations, and whether there are any guarantees they will reap rewards for Canadian workers.

When pressed by Kapelos on whether the contracts will ever be made public, or whether the federal government will at least be transparent about the conditions placed on the automakers in exchange for public funds, Champagne wouldn’t directly say.

“I would say it could not be more public,” Champagne said, pointing to the Honda deal. “We're talking about the investments tax credit. It's a tax credit, and I think it is inconceivable for anyone to be against (it).”

The Industry Minister also said the Honda deal is transparent because it includes a tax credit laid out in Canada’s tax code, and that the company is “investing $15.7 billion of their own money,” signalling an investment in Canada.

But when asked directly again whether the contracts will ever be made public, specifically in the cases of Volkswagen and Stellantis, Champagne said those deals were inked “in a different regime,” and that the federal government has “made the contract transparent to the parliamentarians in committee.”

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates was tasked with considering contracts between the federal government and electric vehicle battery manufacturing companies.

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello 

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