Commuters Feel the Pain
Before I became an MP, I was among the millions of Canadians who spent more than two and a half hours a day commuting to and from my work in downtown Toronto. The sting of taking precious time away from my family was offset with the opportunity to catch up on paperwork while I rode the GO Train, and I was also happy to do my part to keep another car off the road. With then Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s introduction of the Transit Tax Credit in 2006, there was an additional incentive of tax relief for transit use.
The credit allowed residents to claim 15 per cent of the value of monthly and weekly transit passes, and its impact translated to up to $360 a year of savings. In the most recent budget, Trudeau’s Liberal Government announced that they are scrapping this tax credit and it will be eliminated by July 1st.
Since the Trudeau government took office, 94% of announced infrastructure projects have failed to start construction. This means that jobs are not being created and the economy is not being stimulated. Instead of coming up with a new plan that actually builds infrastructure and creates jobs, Budget 2017 doubled down on the existing Infrastructure Plan and contained no new infrastructure spending beyond what was already announced. We already knew that they were planning to take billions of dollars away from communities to pay for their Infrastructure Bank, but with the cancellation of the Public Transit Tax Credit, it will now be more expensive for Canadians to use public transit.
The Budget also confirmed that public transit funds will continue to be allocated based primarily on ridership (30% population and 70% ridership). This formula favours large, urban centres that already have developed public transit systems and disadvantages growing communities like Durham, that arguably need these funds more.
Last December, Prime Minister Trudeau issued an ultimatum to the Premiers, stating that each province had two years to establish a provincial carbon tax of their choice; otherwise, the Federal Government would impose one on the provinces that do not comply. On January 1st, 2017, the Ontario Government introduced a Cap and Trade Program, which creates emission ‘allowances’ for businesses based on their annual greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses are entitled to trade or purchase additional allowances. With each passing year, these allowances will be reduced, in part to meet set out targets. However, what the government fails to highlight is that as these allowances are reduced, prices rise.
This is why, since Ontario’s Cap and Trade Program was introduced, drivers are now seeing a significant increase in the price of gas and Canadians are now more than ever feeling the pain at the pump. According to the 2016 Annual Report from the Auditor General of Ontario, the new carbon tax will now cost families on average $157 in 2017, jumping to $210 by 2019.
Also notable from the federal Liberal Government’s Budget, is the indication that we are looking forward to a new tax on uber rides. Ontarians and most importantly, Durham residents, are being squeezed at every end, thus making all forms of transportation unaffordable, especially for young people and students, many of whom can’t afford their own vehicles. The Liberal Government is out of step with the financial struggles of Canadians, as they continue to keep up with the cost of living. I will continue to hold the government to account.