Making the Grade

Provinces hold the wheel on big energy, investment, and infrastructure decisions, but are they taking the right steps to build more sustainable economies? Our scorecard reveals a Canada of provincial leaders and laggards

Key Takeaways

  • Canada is experiencing a heavily fragmented energy transition with consequences for household affordability and economic development. Provincial action ranges greatly, and it's clear that provinces in general need to step up—some a lot more than others. Tweet this
  • Since 2016, 80% of climate spending in Canada has been at the federal level, despite the fact that the federal government is responsible for roughly 20% of all public spending. Tweet this
  • Quebec is leading the pack with an A grade thanks to its support for EVs and heat pumps and a growing battery supply chain. Tweet this
  • Alberta and Saskatchewan—the only two provinces to receive D grades—are failing to live up to their potential in a significant way. Tweet this
  • Ontario received good grades for its industrial strategy after making big moves to expand its EV supply chain, but it ultimately scored a C due to weaker efforts around clean transportation and buildings. Tweet this
  • B.C. scores well on clean buildings and transportation, but poor electricity planning earns it a B overall. Tweet this
  • Manitoba’s brand new EV rebate improved its clean transportation score, helping it become the only Prairie province to earn a C. Tweet this
  • P.E.I. is the clear leader in Atlantic Canada, being one of just two provinces nationwide to score a B. Tweet this

Executive Summary

As federal and provincial politicians pile into the debate over carbon pricing, a more pressing question has emerged: if certain provinces reject federal climate action, what would they do instead? Or better yet, what are they doing right now to build more sustainable economies?

While every level of government bears responsibility for climate issues, there are few subnational jurisdictions around the world with as much authority over their economic and environmental futures as Canadian provinces. As a result, Canada’s success through the energy transition depends on their leadership. However, since 2016, the federal government has covered 80% of the cost of Canadian climate action, despite holding the purse strings on only 20% of public spending.1,2

In a world where countries are pouring trillions into clean industries and household climate solutions (most notably, President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act), decisions made today by provinces will have implications for their industries, local businesses, and residents for decades to come. In short, the energy transition is no longer just about emissions—it’s about economics and affordability too.

But in this low-carbon horse race, some provinces are further along than others. And while Canada would undoubtedly benefit most if provinces led the field together, divergent approaches can drive both competition and learning opportunities between neighbours.

Clean Energy Canada graded each province between A+ and D on its progress toward building a sustainable economy, illuminating Canada’s leaders and laggards. We assessed the provinces in four areas: clean energy, clean buildings, clean transportation, and clean industry. Each of these categories encompasses a spectrum of actions, from macro-level policies like electricity planning to household-level measures like rebates for EVs and heat pumps that enable residents to save money as well as emissions. While there are a number of ways that provinces can build sustainable economies, this scorecard focuses on areas where provinces should be helping citizens and businesses benefit from the energy transition.

Quebec topped the rankings with a near straight-A scorecard, thanks to its clean electricity ambitions and investments in clean industries like EV batteries. In fact, buildings was the only category where the province received a B, in part due to its lack of action on low-carbon construction. British Columbia came in second with an unsurprising A in transportation—it is a North American leader in EV adoption, after all—and another in the clean buildings category. Its C in clean energy was the product of a lack of electricity planning to underpin its world-leading climate policies and future economic growth.

At the other end of the rankings, certain prairie provinces are failing to live up to their potential. In a world that reaches net zero by 2050, Alberta and Saskatchewan could have the fastest growing clean energy sectors in the country in terms of jobs, with gains in clean energy far outpacing fossil fuel losses.3 Alberta’s D grade reflects its lack of action to seize this opportunity. Indeed, despite being the wind and solar capital of Canada, the province received the lowest possible score for its clean energy efforts after the government imposed restrictions on renewable development. Saskatchewan also received poor scores on transportation and industrial strategy, with the province failing to put its abundant renewable power potential to use.

There were bright spots across the provinces that made up the middle of the scorecard. Ontario received good grades for its industrial strategy after making big moves to expand its EV supply chain. New Brunswick saw A grades for its electricity system after the province released an energy strategy heavily featuring renewables, and Prince Edward Island’s exceptional heat pump program boosted its clean buildings score. Meanwhile, Manitoba’s new EV rebate improved its clean transportation rank.


map showing varying letter grades for each province, with Quebec, BC, and PEI leading and AB and SK falling behind.

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  1. Double Or Trouble. RBC Climate Action Institute (2024).
  2. OECD Regions at a Glance 2016. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2016).
  3. A Pivotal Moment. Clean Energy Canada (2023).