In the dust of the day…

While the remote northern Québec forest fires continue to burn and while the northeast wind continues to blow, it remains a draw whether the morning air is charred or contaminated.  Just how perspicaciously does one regard the view at the dawn of the first morning light?

Remote communities are awaiting help to deal with major forest fires that have ripped through northern Quebec. Left to burn on their own over the past month, the fires have charred about 300,000 hectares of forest, causing an evacuation from one community and hampering shipments of food to northern grocery stores. Matagami Mayor René Dubé, who chairs a regional group of elected officials, said he is concerned about the town of Eastmain and a gold-mine project that has been disrupted by evacuations. About 300 people, mainly the elderly, have been removed from the Cree community 1,200 kilometres north of Montreal to Val d’Or, but Mr. Dubé said many residents stayed behind to protect the town. The fires have burned to within four kilometres of the aboriginal community. The main highway to James Bay has been closed, meaning food and other supplies cannot be shipped into the area. John Boudrias, who is with the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association, said on Friday that five communities could run into food shortages in the coming days. Mr. Boudrias pointed out that four of the communities, along the coast of James Bay, have airstrips, so supplies could be flown in. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois told reporters in Montreal that every effort possible was under way to deal with the situation. But she also said several fires are so large that it is impossible to try to control them and put them out.

The fires are being blamed on the driest summer in 40 years around James Bay, the hub of the province’s hydro production. Three major forest fires are being monitored – including the biggest one, which has raged at speeds of up to 30 kilometres per hour. Goldcorp Inc. also said in a news release that it has begun evacuating employees from its Éléonore gold mining project. A fire with prevailing winds is about 100 kilometres away and advancing toward the site. Satellite images show smoke over a sizable chunk of the northwestern part of the province.

Some of the smoke could even be detected this week hundreds of kilometres away, in Montreal. The fires are being blamed for problems with hydro transmission lines that have caused numerous blackouts in the province – including a rush-hour shutdown of the Montreal metro system earlier this week.

Meanwhile – not wishing to corrupt my lungs or the fidelity of my new left knee by too much exertion on my red tricycle –  I limited my customary morning outing to a routine venture for a car wash and a fill-up of the tank.  Yet I was disappointed.  I got the car washed; but according to the printed scripts posted onto the fuel pumps at three different stations, “For reasons beyond our control …” Petro-Canada is experiencing credit and debit problems with its machines. This corruption, combined with prevailing supply issues apparently affecting production of all makes and models of passenger automobiles, has led to an unsettling want of communication between automotive retailers and their clients. There is adrift a toxic poison or contamination affecting the motor vehicle industry. At the same time, there is news of impending improvement. Given the enormity of the industry it is not unexpectedly inhibiting that multiple hiccups have arisen along the way to fulfillment of this new enterprise.

According to government data, the auto sector plays a key role in Canada’s economy, contributing CA$16 billion to its gross domestic product (GDP). With nearly 500,000 direct or indirect jobs, automotive is one of the country’s largest manufacturing sectors and one of its largest export industries.

Volkswagen and its battery company PowerCo announced Monday that they selected Ontario, Canada as the location of Volkswagen’s first cell manufacturing facility in North America. The new battery plant in Canada will be the third group in the group, after Salzgitter, Germany and Valencia, Spain.

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“Canada offers ideal conditions, including the local supply of raw materials and wide access to clean electricity,” the group said in a press release. Production is expected to start in 2027.

Tesla is another company that publicly stated it is actively looking at Canada as a potential site for a new battery and / or assembly plant. The company would join Ford, General Motors, Honda, Stellantis and Toyota, which already have production facilities in Ontario.

“The success of the [Ontario] government and the federal government [sic] will not be defined by what we have landed at the moment. It will be whether we can lend a sixth automaker or a seventh,” Flavio Volpe says. “It will mean that our vision was worthy of the rhetoric and convince the best automakers in the world that the future runs through Ontario.”

It is not at all surprising that the economic enthusiasm surrounding the electrification of the automotive industry is indirectly acquainted with Ontario’s surplusage of raw material. It is reminiscent of the development and explosion of the continental railway. In short there is an abidding resource for an entirely new expression of vehicular travel, including autonomous driving and energy-efficient production and usage. Travel – whether by train or automobile, whether local or international, whether domestic or retail – is poised for remarkable amendment. The unwitting connection of all this with public safety and health means we’re standing on the precipice of some major alterations.

And yet – in the midst of these global predictions and revisions – and in spite of their appeal to universal but narrower themes of health and safety – there persists in the travel context a realm of personal identity which ironically pushes aside the broader motives of popular identity. Whenever the vehicular choice reduces to what nourishes personal flavour, there are bound to exude ingredients of dynamic but less than democratic persuasion. Even an electrified automobile can remain within the scope of personal pleasure and expression. We are about to reawaken an entirely new world of private vehicular expression.  Naturally the evolutionary modification will be incremental – and there will be those of us who intentionally or not will exceed the boundaries of manifestation.

It appears that the unprecedented consumption of electrification by the notoriously greedy vehicular appetites (and retail novelty generally) has for the moment disrupted and imbalanced the overall management and control of the industry. I have to laugh at the destitute peril of this 4-wheeled boxed mechanism (called a “car”) upon the threatened abrupt evaporation of its historic fuel – that dirty, botanical derivation from deep in the ground. We are by contrast now offered an unimaginably clean alternative with a plug.  Somebody wake me! Tell me it is not a dream!