JUSTICE

THIS IS ONE VERY STRANGE CASE

MARK STEYN April 9 2007
JUSTICE

THIS IS ONE VERY STRANGE CASE

MARK STEYN April 9 2007

Ottawa’s auto rebate runs a little rough

BY BARBARA RIGHTON • The EcoAutO Rebate Program, introduced in the federal budget last week to reward some Canadians for buying new environmentally friendly cars—and penalize others for choosing gas guzzlers—is taking a hit from auto analysts and carmakers alike. Dennis DesRosiers, for one, calls the plan a tax grab, while manufacturers like Hyundai, left off the fuel-efficient list altogether, say Ottawa has favoured certain carmakers, while showing no appreciable gain for the environment.

Put simply, the program promises rebates of up to $2,000 for cars that get 6.5 litres per 100 km or less. Inarguably, it favours Toyota. The carmaker has seven out of 17 autos listed as eligible for the rebate, six hybrids and the sub-compact Yaris, which boasts 6.4 litres per 100 km. At Hyundai Auto Canada in Markham, Ont., spokesman Tom McPherson points out that his company’s Accent gets 6.9 litres per 100 km, but is not eligible for a rebate. “The Accent misses the target number by four-tenths of a litre,” McPherson says with exasperation. “Ottawa has provided Toyota with an arbitrary competitive advantage and the environmental benefits just don’t seem to be there.”

At the other end, the big SUVs favoured by suburban soccer moms will be hit with a “ green levy” of as much as $4,000. That will affect that segment’s buyers not one whit, DesRosiers says. Those who want bigger can probably afford bigger, “green levy” or no. What’s worse, DesRosiers calculates that the program will cost the feds up to $5,600 for every tonne of carbon eliminated—making

it one of the most expensive environmental programs in the world.

And for what, he asks. Canadians already buy economical cars—nearly 465,000 (or almost 35 per cent) of all new car sales in 2006 were compacts and subcompacts, so this rebate won’t change the pattern. “All it is going to do is confuse the heck out of the public,” says a Honda dealer in Ontario. M