The carbon tax was the first tax increase.
Then the provincial government introduced the HST.
And on Canada Day, the carbon tax marked its first anniversary with a jump at the pump, another 1.11 cents a litre.
Now, Metro Vancouver mayors, with the provincial government’s blessing, want to increase the gas tax by two cents a litre.
As if motorists in the region don’t pay enough for gas already – among the highest rates in North American – the tax increase will only help pay for a portion of the transit improvements sought, including the long-awaited Evergreen SkyTrain line to Coquitlam, an 11-kilometre route with a current price tag of $ 1.4 billion.
The $400 million transit plan also outlines upgrades to buses and SeaBuses, roads and cycling lanes.
The extra two cents on gas will raise about $40 million a year, half the amount needed annually to fund the plan.
So mayors also want to introduce a small vehicle levy ($10 to $40 a year) and a property tax increase. When does the bleeding stop?
Last week White Rock Couns. Al Campbell and Grant Meyer noted the increased costs of gas were driving many motorists – themselves included – south of the border to fill their tanks.
Road tolls – which may not be that far away – will also have an inhibiting effect on business and the way people choose to spend their rapidly shrinking dollars.
No doubt Metro Vancouver needs to get with the times, to expand transit and try to eliminate congestion and reduce pollution.
The money has to come from somewhere, and the shift, as we’ve seen with tolls on the Golden Ears Bridge and the HST, is to tax consumption. The gas tax does that.
But with salaries lagging behind inflation, and inflated housing prices that rival New York, London and San Francisco, not to mention average residential property tax hikes each year of around 3.5 per cent – people just don’t have that much more to give. One day, governments will have to figure out a way to cut costs, spend less, or voters will tell them.
For now, we need these transit improvements, to get with the 21st Century, to stop just building roads. So increasing taxes is a necessary evil.
But it must be done in an equitable way, like tolls on all bridges, maybe even roads; all motorists must pay, not just those who drive the most, because they don’t yet have the benefit of taking SkyTrain.