If the federal and B.C. governments are as hungry to spark job creation as their expensive TV commercials and overseas trips make it appear, they should cut the taxes on gas.
Taxes now make up nearly one-third of the cost of gasoline, which both penalizes drivers and raises the cost of any good or service moved by a vehicle. Leaving more of that money in drivers' pockets to spend anywhere simply makes sense.
Lower mainland drivers pay the highest gas tax on the continent -- more than 49 cents per litre. In Victoria, the tax burden is almost 41 cents, while the rest of British Columbia sits at the national average of 37 cents per litre.
All together, those gas taxes will generate $1.82 billion for various levels of government next year; a billion dollars of which will flow out of lower mainland drivers' pockets, thanks to the obscene 17 cents per litre TransLink tax.
Once upon a time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives understood Canadians' concerns on gas tax. "The fastest and easiest way to give Canadians relief at the pump is for the federal government to stop charging GST on top of gasoline excise taxes," said Conservative Party news release from May 2004. "It's time to axe the tax on the tax."
Of course, the prime minister was in opposition then. Gas had climbed to the mid-90 cent range, a price which today would trigger a Stanley Cup-like parade among grateful drivers.
Scrapping the practice of calculating the HST/GST last, thereby taxing the other gas taxes, is the first step to getting prices down in B.C. The second should be the removal of the carbon tax.
The carbon tax, set to grow from 5.56 cents to 6.67 cents per litre on July 1st, is technically revenue neutral for the provincial government. For drivers, it's anything but.
The correlating boutique tax credits that pay back the $237 million the B.C. government collects in carbon tax from drivers do very little to help those paying to fill their tanks. It's a tax shift from urban dwellers on to the rest of B.C., and it's unfair.
The B.C. Trucking Association estimates the carbon tax alone costs the average long-haul truck operator $6,000 per year -- a cost directly passed along to the consumer when goods are priced at the store. Wonder why your dollar doesn't go as far as it used to at the grocery store? The hidden cost of gas tax.
Ending the GST/HST tax-on-tax and carbon tax would give immediate relief of nearly nine cents per litre to B.C. drivers -- savings that would be passed along immediately. Research proves that provinces with lower gas taxes have lower gas prices.
A moderate level of gas tax is acceptable, but only when the money is flowing into road and bridge infrastructure that benefits the drivers paying the bill.
That isn't happening in British Columbia, where drivers will soon be tolled to pay for the expansion to Canada's national Highway 1. Tolling the Port Mann Bridge while collecting billions from drivers in gas taxes, auto insurance, municipal property taxes for roads, development cost charges for roads, vehicle registration fees and transfer taxes, parking taxes and drivers' license fees, is highway robbery.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has launched a petition aimed at ending the GST/HST tax-on-tax, and ensuring money collected from drivers is spent on things that benefit drivers. Until politicians at every level hear the public demanding relief at the gas pump, they will view drivers as their personal drive-thru ATM machines.