Merits of fuel taxes debated at Transport Futures forum

Item date: 
July 26, 2018
Item context: 

A nice summary of the Transport Futures Gas Tax Forum that will be published in ReNew Magazine.  

By AONGHUS KEALY

Before Ontario Premier Doug Ford won a majority government in June, one of his key election planks was to cut the provincial gas tax by 10 cents a litre.
 
This will take at least $1.2 billion away from Queen’s Park coffers. While it remains a popular idea, Transport Futures founder Martin Collier believes that cutting fuel taxes is a subject that deserves more analysis and discussion before it becomes law. In anticipation of an all-party debate, he arranged a half day forum at the University of Toronto’s Innis Town Hall on July 25.
 
Panellists spoke about the pros and cons of Canada’s reliance on gas taxes in terms of economics, fiscal policy, transportation infrastructure, traffic demand management, environmental and legal implications, and politics. 
 
Among those discussions, Andy Manahan, executive director of the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, said while gas taxes represent an important source of revenue for infrastructure, it will become less effective over time. Electric vehicles and improved fuel efficiency are already cutting in to revenue and will continue to do so.
 
“Government funding has to come from somewhere. That’s why it’s an ideal time to consider options such as broadening road tolls. Ontario’s HOT lane pilot project on the QEW is working well and U.S. jurisdictions, including California, Washington and Minnesota, have found that road capacity is improved with HOV/HOT lanes. Premier Ford expressed an interest in road pricing a few years ago while still with Toronto city council. A road pricing network across the GTA will ease congestion and boost our economy.”
 
Another speaker, North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton, said, “I hold my nose at fuel taxes,” adding he is a big proponent of “silver buckshot” (rather than silver bullet) funding solutions that are resilient, including “mobility pricing.”
 
B.C.’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission released a report in May which describes strategies for using road and bridge tolls to reduce traffic and commute times. Walton said the reaction to the report was mostly negative. However, the report “advanced the knowledge, discussion, the dialogue as part of a long education process that’s necessary in order to move public policy along.”