We need our fair share of the gas tax back

By MPP Toby Barrett

Ontario needs a law that will ensure every municipality will get a fair share of the gas tax every driver in the province pays at the pumps.

Currently, the Gasoline Tax Act permits only those municipalities that have a rapid transit or public transportation system to get a tax rebate. As a result, only 99 out of 444 municipalities receive money from the gas tax even though every resident in the province pays into it.

In Ontario, the provincial excise tax on gasoline at the pump is 14.7 cents/ litre. The federal rate is 10 cents/litre. After the 13 per cent HST tax is added – the famous tax on a tax – we pay a combined 27.9 cents per litre. And, now we also must add the January 1, 2017, cap and trade tax oil refineries are passing down to their customers at the pumps – an increase of 4.3 cents a litre.

Canada has instituted rules ensuring the federal gas tax is shared across the country —on a per capita basis. If the federal government realizes communities need to be treated fairly, why does the Ontario government not see it the same way?

Furthermore, earlier this year Premier Wynne announced the government will be increasing the rebate by two cents a litre to those select municipalities with public transit, resulting in an additional $300 million going to urban ridings, to the detriment of rural ridings.

Last week government members voted down, yet again, my colleague MPP John Yakabuski’s Private Member’s Bill which would have brought equality to Ontario’s rural municipalities by ensuring they all share in a portion of the gas tax their residents pay.

Here’s MPP Yakabuski during debate: “I say to my colleagues on the other side, who may not live in rural Ontario, that our roads and streets, back roads, side roads, county roads, and main streets in our villages and towns are our public transportation system.”

Toronto subways are important, but so too are bridges, culverts, airports, railway lines, shipping docks and pipelines – all important infrastructure requiring new build and maintenance crucial to the efficient and cost-effective movement of goods and services in Ontario.

One of the long-standing infrastructure challenges in rural Ontario has been the need for the many bridges and culverts that cross ditches, streams and creeks.

All told, Haldimand County maintains 1,500 kilometres of roads, and 266 bridges with a span over three meters, in addition to hundreds of culverts.

Norfolk has 2,400 kilometres of road, 115 bridges and another 123 structures spanning more than three metres, plus hundreds of culverts.

For instance, at one time not that long ago, there were bridges on every concession that crossed Norfolk’s Big Creek. Concession Road 7 has been closed at the bridge for years. More recently, the Concession A bridge was shut down, as well as the Marburg bridge on Black Creek.

In the past, municipalities had the option of using Bailey bridges – pre-engineered structures that could be dropped into place. Now, new regulations require separate engineering, design and building of a bridge for each situation.

Such bureaucratic regulatory creep, coupled with long distances, challenging terrain and sparse populations present an argument for the return of fuel taxes paid by our northern and rural municipalities.