Letters to the Editor and other People Speak
Time for gas tax honesty in B.C.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has held a gas tax honesty day every year since 1999 to show motorists they are paying for more than just gasoline every time they fill up.
Conventional wisdom claims drivers are gouged at the gas pump, and now more people realize that both the federal and provincial governments do some gouging of their own. Here in B.C. it's getting worse. It's time for more gas tax honesty.
Gasoline taxes are a classic tax grab. When crude prices fell by 36 per cent in 2008, federal gas tax revenues fell by only 8.5 per cent. On top of provincial and federal taxes, drivers pay GST - a tax on a tax. In 2009, the federal government is expected to collect $1.3 billion in GST on gasoline and diesel sales, even after rebates.
As if all that wasn't bad enough, governments play on taxpayers' fears and concerns to justify even higher gasoline taxes. For example, in 1995, the federal government added a "deficit reduction" tax to gasoline, but after the deficit disappeared, the tax remained. The federal government will probably not try the same trick with a carbon tax since the federal Liberal party's carbon tax was overwhelmingly rejected by Canadian voters in the 2008 general election. The proposal was rightfully seen as a tax grab designed to transfer money from consumers to new social engineering programs.
B.C., however, still has a carbon tax , and it will get bigger on July 1. When the B.C. government fell for the consensus rhetoric of the global warming alarmists and introduced the carbon tax on July 1, 2008, people were outraged enough to boost the NDP's popularity over the governing Liberals for the first time in years. The NDP even tried to use the carbon tax as a wedge issue in the 2009 election, but with lower gasoline prices and worries about the economy, it didn't work.
The election result could have been different, however, if gasoline prices were high and the economy was on an even keel. An Ipsos-Reid exit poll on May 12 showed that, of the people who considered the carbon tax an issue, almost 60 per cent voted for the NDP. Even carbon tax cheerleaders admit the axe-the-tax campaign helped the NDP on election day.
Although no one expected the NDP to do well in traditional Liberal strongholds, an independent candidate, Arthur Hadland, in B.C.'s Peace River North riding, gave the Liberal candidate a scare. One of the key components of Mr. Hadland's platform was to eliminate the carbon tax.
Although the Liberals won with 43.5 per cent of the vote, Mr. Hadland came in second, with 32 per cent of the vote, and only 1,093 votes behind.
In fact, the Liberals knew the carbon tax would hurt them in the north so they created a northern and rural homeowner benefit to counter opposition to the carbon tax.
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a carbon tax was a tax grab, a tax on everything, and would "screw everybody," he was right.
Gasoline taxes - like the carbon tax - increase costs for B.C. families and mean more of the family budget is devoured by government.
Drivers are fed up being treated as bank machines for cash-hungry politicians, and those who continue with gas tax dishonesty will eventually pay the price at the polls.
Maureen Bader is the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.