It's about time for a change of pace - Denny Scott editorial
Over the long weekend, I met with a group of friends for the first time in a very long time. What happened was what happens when you get together with people around a table with nothing to do but talk and share a beverage: we got to solving the problems of the world.
This particular group of friends runs the gamut from educators to lawyers to vehicular software engineers. So, when we started talking about cars (and the ridiculously steep incline to get to the cottage we rented) we inevitably talked about rising gas prices and how much of an impact that made on the weekend.
With people traveling from as far away as south of the border, and with it taking nearly four hours to get from Blyth to this cottage, the amount spent on gas wasn’t unsubstantial (though the price for the rental was downright ridiculous thanks to housing prices going through the roof).
One of the visitors from the United States commented that our roads are fantastic all the way from Sarnia to Huntsville, saying that, in his home state, even the worst roads he traveled to get to the cottage would be among the best in Michigan. My response was that’s likely because of the gas tax, which is often used by municipalities for infrastructure projects like roads.
The discussion petered out after that, only to be brought back up by some of the people at the event during my morning walk on Wednesday. (Having an exercise group that spans different cities is a miracle of modern technology and really helps encourage me to keep walking, let me tell you.)
It was during the walk that I pointed out that, with electric vehicles becoming more common, fewer people were paying the gas tax and that would undoubtedly have a negative impact on infrastructure, especially in rural areas.
I said it was time for that particular government income to become a more universal tax because, while we were once a society that focused on keeping our travel and our spending as local as possible by necessity, that is no longer the case and everyone benefits from the infrastructure maintained by those taxes. Pretty much everyone benefits from roads to a similar degree, regardless of whether or not they drive a vehicle. From groceries getting delivered to the local grocer to packages or mail being delivered by Canada Post or Purolator, everyone relies on the roads not only as a means of personal conveyance but also to provide them with everything from food to toilet paper to medication. Heck, without those roads, there would be no way to walk around certain parts of Blyth.
Even reading this very newspaper you will be looking at stories and photos that are only made possible thanks to people traveling to generate that content .
Some pointed out that taxi rides and the transporting of groceries, mail and packages have built-in expenses to cover the taxes that come with buying gas. I, however, pointed out that it obviously wasn’t enough, since we have roads and bridges that are in need of repair, but have to go without as more dire repairs have to be (justifiably) prioritized.
So, am I asking for more taxes? No. I’m pretty sure that, between increased gas food prices, only those in the highest earning brackets aren’t feeling the squeeze right now. I do think, however, that we need to look at how we fund issues like infrastructure maintenance because fossil fuels are something that are, no pun intended here, going the way of the dinosaur. In just over a decade, the federal government wants all vehicles sold in Canada to be zero-emission. Should the government succeed in that ambitious plan, gasoline-burners (and all the taxes they pay on that gasoline) could soon be a thing of the past.
So, my question is: why wait? We have people who are currently using the roads without paying into the gas tax that helps maintain them. One of my friends was quick to point out that may be part of why people are buying electric vehicles. He holds that, as a society, we should value their commitment to a greener tomorrow. The last time I checked, however, Lavis Contracting didn’t respond to tenders or request-for-proposals for road work that could be paid for with good feelings.
Chartered Professional Accountants - Canada estimates that $16 billion is generated by taxes at the pump across the country, which is no drop in the bucket as far as infrastructure is concerned. We need to move that to a general tax now to help maintain roads and bridges before the provincial and federal governments have yet another excuse to reduce the money they pay out for responsibilities they have downloaded to the municipalities.