Ford’s pol­icy-on-the-fly ends badly with Tesla

PressReader - Tke Channel - Ford’s pol­icy-on-the-fly ends badly with Tesla
Doug Ford’s Tories are learn­ing that turn­ing half-made-up blus­ter into real gov­ern­ment pol­icy of­ten goes badly.An On­tario judge has found that the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives made Tesla a spe­cial tar­get in their at­tack on green sub­si­dies and treated the elec­tric car­maker un­fairly when they killed a re­bate pro­gram for buy­ers after tak­ing of­fice.The gov­ern­ment ar­bi­trar­ily made de­ci­sions that had no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion un­der any ex­ist­ing law, and “sin­gled out Tesla for repro­ba­tion and harm with­out (pro­vid­ing) Tesla any op­por­tu­nity to be heard or any fair process what­so­ever,” Judge Fred­er­ick My­ers of On­tario Su­pe­rior Court found. Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters have a lot of ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity, but they need to use it for le­git­i­mate pur­poses.The judge quashed a tran­si­tion pro­gram that gave buy­ers of other elec­tric cars, but not Tes­las, un­til Sept. 10 to fin­ish their trans­ac­tions and get re­bates of as much as $14,000 for their en­vi­ron­men­tally friend­lier ve­hi­cles.The gov­ern­ment can ab­so­lutely end the re­bate pro­gram, he em­pha­sized. But it con­structed the tem­po­rary ex­ten­sion to beat up one com­pany, and it can’t do that.Tesla makes three ex­pen­sive elec­tric-car mod­els and only its bot­tom-end “Model 3” was el­i­gi­ble for the re­bate, cov­ered cars that cost $75,000 or less. Tesla had about 600 of the $46,000 Model 3s on or­der in On­tario when the Tories killed the re­bate.When the Tories scrapped the re­bates on July 11, they gave other deal­ers two months to get cars from man­u­fac­tur­ers and de­liver them to cus­tomers who’d al­ready or­dered them and the buy­ers would still be el­i­gi­ble for their sub­si­dies. But the gov­ern­ment kept Tesla out of the ex­ten­sion.Why? The of­fi­cial rea­son was that Tesla doesn’t have deal­er­ships in On­tario. Ex­cept it does: U.S.-based Tesla has a Cana­dian arm that is a reg­is­tered car dealer in On­tario. It isn’t set up like other car­mak­ers, whose deal­ers are typ­i­cally sep­a­rate fran­chisees, but if the gov­ern­ment thought Tesla’s cus­tomers bought di­rectly from the man­u­fac­turer, that’s tech­ni­cally not right. It might have checked.The judge’s rul­ing went on to take down the poor bu­reau­crat the gov­ern­ment sent in to jus­tify its treat­ment of Tesla, an act­ing man­ager of pol­icy and pro­grams in the Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion whose back­ground is in de­sign­ing anti-cli­mate-change pro­grams, not dis­man­tling them.Vrinda Vaidyanathan tes­ti­fied that the point of ex­tend­ing the re­bates was just to pro­tect small “in­de­pen­dently owned, fran­chised deal­er­ships.” The thing is, the judge found that was the first time any­body men­tioned the im­por­tance of in­de­pen­dent own­er­ship for the car deal­ers still ben­e­fit­ing from re­bates— in court. There’s no sign that de­tail came up when the gov­ern­ment made its de­ci­sions in July.“(The) wit­ness was un­able to point to any ev­i­dence of any con­sid­er­a­tion hav­ing been given to the ac­tual eco­nomic de­sign of the mo­tor ve­hi­cle deal­er­ship in­dus­try in On­tario,” the judge wrote.In­stead the gov­ern­ment, from the premier to Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter John Yak­abuski on down, made things up as they went to make sure just one com­pany got left out.“The evo­lu­tion of the pro­gram terms pro­pounded by the min­is­ter lays bare the tar­get­ing of Tesla,” the rul­ing says.Premier Ford shot his mouth off about Tesla quite a bit. The judge’s rul­ing quotes an in­ter­view with Hamil­ton’s CHCH TV sta­tion in which Ford com­plained about how “with the folks from Tesla, the com­mon folks here in Hamil­ton have a big prob­lem, giv­ing re­bates of up to $16,000 with our hard-earned money to mil­lion­aires buy­ing $80,000 cars, $100,000 cars. Uh, we have an is­sue with that, we want to pro­tect the lit­tle per­son.”Tes­las are toys for rich peo­ple, so screw ’em. Maybe Tesla should man­u­fac­ture cars in On­tario and things would be dif­fer­ent, Ford sug­gested.The judge pointed out what a blar­ney-mer­chant the premier can be: “The ev­i­dence dis­closes that the re­bates are limited to $14,000, the max­i­mum car price for which sub­si­dies may be paid is $75,000, not $80,000 or $100,000, and Tesla’s Model 3 is not the most ex­pen­sive car re­ceiv­ing sub­si­dies un­der the pro­gram.”Hy­brid SUVs from Mercedes, BMW and Volvo are in the same league, un­der the $75,000 limit but not by much.Ford spoke after Tesla had filed its court chal­lenge. He might as well have been tes­ti­fy­ing for the com­pany. He cer­tainly didn’t leave the im­pres­sion that the whole thing had been care­fully thought through.Be­cause it wasn’t. The gov­ern­ment did a dumb thing be­cause it needed to look con­sis­tent with its pre­vi­ous hard-blow­ing, backed up by rea­son­ing that kept chang­ing as facts kept box­ing it in.The Tories have sim­i­lar prob­lems with sex ed­u­ca­tion (the cur­ricu­lum now in abeyance doesn’t in­clude the things its worst crit­ics say), with elec­tric­ity prices (not re­ally Hy­dro One’s fault, and there­fore not low­ered by chang­ing man­age­ment at Hy­dro One), with the state of the province’s ac­count­ing (all but a tiny sliver of the books as the Lib­er­als kept them were ap­proved by the au­di­tor gen­eral).In all those cases, they’re do­ing big noisy things — lots of con­sul­ta­tions, re­plac­ing the Hy­dro One board, nam­ing grandiose com­mis­sions — whose ef­fects will be cos­metic at best. Maybe the Tories will call those wins. Or maybe it’ll be re­ally ob­vi­ous be­fore long what a mess they’ve made for them­selves.

The gov­ern­ment, from Premier Doug Ford, above, to Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter John Yak­abuski on down, made things up as they went to make sure just one com­pany got left out, writes David Reevely.

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