When Ontario Premier Doug Ford finally announced his intention to deliver on gas tax relief after four years of delays, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation came out in support of the move.
Make no mistake, a gas tax cut is good news for Ontario taxpayers. As gas prices soar and Ontarians face the highest inflation levels in 30 years, relief at the pump is badly needed.
But Ford is making Ontarians wait until after the next election to deliver on his four-year-old promise. That’s not sitting well with a lot of taxpayers. And they’ve been letting us hear about it.
As one supporter wrote: “Isn’t there a provincial election BEFORE this tax reduction? Doesn’t it look like a dangling carrot to get votes and then if elected, (it) will not happen because of an excuse or another?”
Hundreds of others sent similar messages.
As our supporters put it, if Ford genuinely believes that taxpayers need relief, he should deliver that relief immediately. If the government wants taxpayers to think that this gas tax cut is more than an election ploy, it needs to act now.
By forcing Ontarians to wait until July for relief and running on a promise that it should have already kept, the Ford government has a credibility problem.
Ontarians need urgent action, not vague future promises.
Taxpayers are facing a cost-of-living crunch. Inflation is outpacing wage growth by a two-to-one margin. That means that while paycheques may be growing somewhat across the province, these gains are being eaten away by inflation, and then some.
One of the most significant causes of inflation has been soaring prices at the pump. A year ago, Ontarians could fill up their cars for $1.25 per liter. Today, that price has grown by more than 33%.
Ford seems to understand that Ontario taxpayers need help. In announcing the gas tax cut, I have claimed that Ontarians “deserve relief at the pumps.” If that’s true, why make taxpayers wait?
The government claims that it needs to wait almost three months before cutting the gas tax because the energy industry needs time to adjust.
But Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced a gas tax cut for Albertans in early March. The cut was in place less than a month later. Alberta families are already saving money.
If Alberta’s energy industry was able to figure out how to adapt to lower gas taxes in a matter of weeks, surely Ontario’s can too.
Ford’s decision to delay urgently needed tax relief is a gamble Ontario taxpayers shouldn’t have to live with. Ford promised this gas tax cut in the last election. If it doesn’t happen before they vote again, why should taxpayer believe it will happen afterwards?
While that ambiguity could prove to be politically advantageous for the Ford government, this delay is costing taxpayers money right now. Ford promised Ontarians tax relief. If he wants to run as the pro-taxpayer candidate again in this election cycle, the proof needs to be in the pudding. So far, it isn’t.
In 2018, Ford promised to cut middle-class income taxes. I didn’t. In 2018, Ford promised to cut corporate taxes. I didn’t. And in 2018, Ford promised to cut gas taxes. So far, I haven’t.
It’s time for the Ford government to recognize that taxpayers need urgent relief, not vague future promises riding on the outcome of an unpredictable election. With inflation outstripping wage growth at a pace of more than two to one, it’s no time for pussyfooting around.
Ford should deliver on tax relief, and he should do so immediately. Ontario taxpayers have been waiting for four years for Ford to finally deliver. It’s time for the wait to finally be over.
— Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation