Battle Lines Drawn in Fight Over Quebec Consumption of Electric School Buses

Written by Carol Brzozowski W

hile school bus manufacturers are gen- erally on board with the government of Quebec’s plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals through the

electrification of student transportation, some of their dealers have gone on the record to note their displeasure with a stipulation that only electric school buses assem- bled in Canada are eligible for program funding. Kelly Backholm, president and owner of Autobus Leeds Transit, an IC Bus dealer for Quebec and Ontario, said he supports electric vehicles and green technology, adding that there are significant upfront costs to trans- forming a fleet. “It has to start somewhere,” he added. “The school bus is a good application.” But like others, he does not support the Canadian

manufacturing requirement. “I am in support of free trade. There’s always been

room in the market for three or more distributors,” he commented. “We’ve been a bus dealer in Canada for more than 50 years, and to have us just with the stroke of a pen shut out of that market is shocking and was not expected, whatsoever.” The 2030 Plan for a Green Economy unveiled by Que-

bec’s Ministry of Transportation on Nov. 16 set a target of a 37.5 percent reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels. As of January, 130 school buses in a prov- ince-wide fleet of more than 10,000 were electric. By 2030, electrification of 65 percent of the school bus fleet would prevent nearly 800,000 tons GHGs, according to Ministry of Transportation estimates. The program provides financial assistance to school

bus operators in the electrification of their fleets. Eligible vehicles are new, fully electric Type A, C and D school buses manufactured by the original manufacturer or with a Transport Canada national safety brand number,

20 School Transportation News • JULY 2021

and they must comply with the Student Transportation Road Vehicle Regulations. The point of contention within the manufacturing

sector is the eligibility list only includes LionA, LionC and LionD models. The Micro Bird G5e also made the list. The Canadian stipulation contrasts U.S. legislation in

Congress that allows for 40 percent of an EV bus to be made out of the country. “We support the government’s commitment to reduc- ing GHGs through the deployment of electric school buses in Quebec, which it plans to do by requiring that two-thirds of buses be electric-powered by 2030,” wrote Michel Daneault, vice president of sales and service for Micro Bird dealer A. Girardin, Inc., in a recent letter to cus- tomers. “The plan is very ambitious and has significant requirements and restrictions on authorized suppliers of electric school buses and their vehicles that could be eligible. We are concerned that the program is intended to direct the majority of electric school bus purchases to one manufacturer. “It is our view that the new program eliminates free

competition to the point of discriminating against cer- tain suppliers and their products, creating a preference that is difficult to overcome,” Daneault said, adding that the program does not appear to consider several factors that could significantly affect school transportation or the achievement of the objectives of electric school bus deployment and GHG reduction. More bluntly, Daneault referred to the requirement as

essentially creating a monopoly in favor of Lion Electric during a press conference last month. The Ministry of Transportation did not respond to

requests for comment. But Daneault pointed out that 99 percent of school buses that crisscross Quebec regions daily have been sold and are supported by Autobus

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