Why implement plug-in electric policies? Comparing policy discourse in newspapers across three Canadian provinces (2008-2018)

Date created: 
Plug-in electric vehicle
Electric vehicle policy
Policy discourse
Policy implementation
Media analysis

Governments can implement a wide range of policies to increase the uptake of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). For example, regions differ in their focus on demand-focused policies that encourage consumers to purchase a PEV, versus supply-focused policies that encourage the industry to develop or sell PEVs. I explore how policy discourse, or how language is used to create meaning around policy issues, can shed light on policy implementation in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, and Québec during the decade 2008-2018. In Canada, Québec became the first to use supplyfocused policy, while British Columbia and Ontario relied on demand-focused policies. Using a selection of 984 newspaper articles, I adopt a mixed-method approach to analyze statements from governments and other actors. First, I conduct (quantitative) content analysis and analyze the frequencies of frames (selected aspects of reality) around PEVs and policies. Second, I conduct (qualitative) discourse analysis by investigating how frames unite to create meaning in simplified stories, storylines. Similar frames occurred in all three case studies: governments framed PEV policy to meet climate goals while emphasizing PEVs’ private benefits to consumers. Policy discourses differed by regions: Québec’s emphasized PEVs as part of economic independence;Ontario’s demonstrated more policy controversy; and British Columbia’s remained silent over supply-focused policies during the time period. In British Columbia and Québec, the automobile industry favored a demand-focused policy approach. While this study remains exploratory, analyzing and comparing policy discourses can shed light on why policymakers in different regions may gravitate towards different policy approaches over time.

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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Jonn Axsen
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.R.M.