Canadian electric vehicle advocates can look at the election of Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party with cautious optimism, and not just for the party's promise to install charging stations at government buildings.

Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Trudeau's chief policy advisor, played a role in the Province of Ontario's decision to shutter its coal plants.

Then he moved on to serve as President and CEO of the conservation group WWF Canada before returning to politics.

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In that role, he collaborated selectively with industry – rather than simply confronting it – to achieve specific goals, one example being the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

The pact commits 19 forestry companies to cease logging in an area the size of Nevada, and to adopt sustainable practices within a larger, California-sized region.

In return, six environmental NGO's agreed not to campaign against the loggers. (The number of participants has varied, with a few players having left the agreement since its inception.)

Bourgeois Chevrolet, Rawdon, Quebec, Canada [photo: RoulezElectrique.com]

Bourgeois Chevrolet, Rawdon, Quebec, Canada [photo: RoulezElectrique.com]

Under Trudeau, Canada's Ministry of Environment has also been renamed the "Ministry of Environment and Climate Change", signalling the new government's intent to tackle the issue.

Its platform proposes to reduce fossil fuel subsidies and to ensure all parts of the country price carbon in some manner; both should incrementally improve the economics of plug-in vehicles, as Canada's electric grid is about 80 percent fossil fuel free.

Nationwide purchase incentives would seem unlikely, though. The country is under intense pressure to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions quickly, and there are lower-cost ways of doing so that will have a larger immediate impact.

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Federal investment in public transit will triple over four years. Energy retrofits of federal buildings are another plausible choice, as these usually pay for themselves within a few years.

Canadian 2015 Federal Election voting patterns [by Noname2. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons]

Canadian 2015 Federal Election voting patterns [by Noname2. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons]

Though the government committed C$1.2 billion to help clean technology companies succeed, two-thirds of the funds are being directed to the resource sector, still a hugely important sector of the Canadian economy.

While this means electric-vehicle component makers may face a lot of competition for the remaining $400 million, some may be able to find willing partners in the resource sector--for partially-electrified mining or logging equipment, perhaps.

Most encouraging for electric-vehicle advocates, the Liberal Party's platform calls for the government to serve as an early adopter of environmental technologies, and as a test-bed for Canadian companies as well.

This includes "rapidly expanding the federal fleet of electric vehicles".

While campaign promises are honored more often in the breach than the observance, Quebec already has such a policy in place, and the Liberal Party won half of the seats in that province.

There could also be opportunities for EVSE cloud and connected-car companies to gain scale. The latter category includes FleetCarma, which has studied the cost savings from plug-in fleets (note that oil prices were considerably higher, at the time).

Fleetcarma's analysis of Nissan Leaf driving range at different temperatures

Fleetcarma's analysis of Nissan Leaf driving range at different temperatures

Policy measures that boost companies within the broader electric car ecosystem, and which could get those all-important "butts in seats" of plug-in electric vehicles, could still provide a substantial positive benefit--though they're neither as direct nor as pricey as electric-car purchase incentives.

We'll end on the inevitable suggestion that some electric-car owner needs to get Mr. Butts in a seat.

We'd suggest starting with a Tesla Model S.

PHOTO: "Canada 2015 Federal Election" by Noname2. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons.

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