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Tesla hires lobbyists in Quebec ahead of important ZEV mandate and EV incentives

tesla Montreal store

My home province of Quebec is increasingly becoming an important market for electric vehicles. Last year, the province was buying 45% of the electric vehicles in Canada despite representing only 23% of the country’s population. Tesla is betting on the market in Montreal where it operates its biggest store and service center in North America.

Tesla’s Model S is also popular in the city through Taxelco’s taxi fleet. The taxi operator is using the Model S in its all-electric taxi fleet, as well as for its shuttle service at the Montréal-Trudeau Airport.

Now it looks like Tesla is looking to have a voice in Quebec to influence the province’s current revision of EV incentives and the implementation of a new ZEV mandate. The automaker recently hired two important lobbyists in Quebec.

La Presse (French), Quebec’s biggest newspaper, reported today that two daughters of former Premiers of Quebec, Pierre-Marc Johnson’s daughter, Marie-Claude Johnson, and Jean Charest’s daughter, Alexandra Dionne Charest, registered this week as lobbyists for Tesla in Quebec. They both work for the firm ‘Hatley Strategies’.

The firm specializes in government relations.

While Pierre-Marc Johnson was only briefly Premier of Quebec back in 1985, Jean Charest has been Quebec’s Premier for almost 10 of the past 14 years before losing the election in 2012. He was the leader of the Liberal party, which currently has a majority in the National Assembly, for 14 years (1998 to 2012). It is safe to assume that some of their connections now extend to their daughters.

The current prime minister, Philippe Couillard, was a health minister under Jean Charest.

Johnson and Dionne Charest didn’t want to comment, but they referred to Tesla’s mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport and they said they want to be a part of the process for the province’s “green transport” strategy.

We asked Tesla for a comment and we will update if we get an answer.

Update: Tesla confirmed hiring the firm, but didn’t want to comment further.

Last year, the Liberal government announced it plans to spend $420 million on electric vehicle incentives over the next 5 year. The program was less generous than the previous government’s plan lead by the Parti Québécois to invest $516 million into the program before being ousted during the 2014 election.

The funds will finance the provincial program to offer up to $8,000 in rebates at the purchase of electric vehicles.

Tesla will be particularly interested in the proposed ZEV mandate that would force automakers to sell electric vehicles for credits in order to compensate for their gas-powered vehicle sales. The ZEV program in California helped Tesla generates hundreds of millions in revenue by selling its excess credits to other automakers.

The legislation to introduce the ZEV mandate was officially proposed in June, but Tesla could look to influence the government to strengthen the requirements – something the automaker has often called for in California, but normally through company officials, like Diarmuid O’Connell, VP of Business Development, not through lobbyists.

In 2015, only 0.7% of vehicles sold in Quebec were zero-emission (~3,000 on ~412,000). The proposed mandate would push for the market share to increase to 3.4% in 2018, 6.9% in 2020 and 15.5% in 2025. Based on Tesla’s standards, it would likely be considered a weak mandate.

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