By MPP Toby Barrett
In rural Ontario, we can’t go anywhere without getting into a vehicle. And we pay provincial taxes every time we fill up the tank – a portion of which is used to support public transit. As we know, there’s no public transit in Norfolk County or Haldimand County.
All municipalities should share in this portion of the gas tax they pay by making all municipalities eligible to receive a rebate from the provincial government, not just urban municipalities. A gas tax rebate should be allocated to those municipalities without public transportation systems based on population size and length of roads under their jurisdiction.
Everybody who pays gas tax in this province has a right to expect some benefits from it, and in our rural communities, our bridges, roads and streets are our public transportation system. In fairness, we need to get something back to support this infrastructure.
When it comes to paying for gas, none of us are immune to the roller-coaster ride of market-driven price hikes, which makes it all the more frustrating when government tax hikes are added into the mix. Case in point is the July 1st addition of the eight per cent tax on a fill up. In rural Ontario, adding insult to injury is the fact that when it comes to redistribution of gas tax we all pay, while cities get in line for rebates, rural municipalities can’t join the cue.
The latest attempt to instill some equity into the process came from Opposition Energy Critic John Yakabuski and his private members bill, titled, Gasoline Tax Fairness For All.
As Mr. Yakabuski reported, the federal government has seen the light when it comes to gas tax fairness, “They’ve made it permanent that all communities in this province will get a share of the gas tax that they pay every time they fill their tanks at the pump.”
Once again, the provincial government’s majority ensured the defeat of Yakabuski’s proposed legislation.
In April 2009, following the announcement of $9 billion for GTA transit, I had the opportunity to ask the Minister of Transportation when rural residents could “expect to hear news….of their very own public transit funding announcement.”We are still awaiting that announcement.
I reminded the Minister that we in rural Ontario, “pay 14.7 cents a litre like everybody else,” and we’re well aware of the unfairness of a program that only “shares” funding with municipalities already benefiting from public transit. “You’re right, Minister; we remember the gas tax, and I ask you not to rub it in. My riding got nothing from that gas tax. Three weeks ago, you said no to sharing two cents a litre with municipalities. Haldimand County and Norfolk County got nothing.”
In the Spring of 2007, I tabled petitions in the Ontario Legislature with over 1,075 Dunnville area signatures, requesting government “investigate the establishment of connecting public transit links between Haldimand County and Norfolk County communities and outlying municipalities, as well as to establish a mechanism to ensure rural municipalities receive the full benefit of the gas tax transit initiative.”
Again, given government’s continued rejection of any plan to bring gas tax benefits to rural taxpayers we will likely continue to subsidize city transit as we fill up at the pumps.