Watchdog group calls on B.C. to slash gas taxes

Canadian Taxpayers Federation says province should eliminate carbon tax, cut TransLink tax. Province says oil companies are the problem.

As gas prices balloon and British Columbians plan summer road trips, a watchdog group is calling on the provincial government to slash fuel taxes.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation held a press conference at a New Westminster gas station Thursday to call on NDP Premier John Horgan to eliminate the carbon tax and slash Metro Vancouver’s TransLink tax. 

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“A lot of folks, as we've heard over the last several weeks, are finding it difficult to fill up their vehicles,” the federation’s B.C. director Kris Sims said. “These are people who are commuting into work, they're dropping off their kids at school, they're picking up groceries, and now a lot of them are hoping to plan for their summer vacations.”

If gas costs $1.69 per litre, 54 cents of that goes to various taxes, according to the CTF. The carbon tax accounts for 8.9 cents, while the provincial excise tax and TransLink tax account for 8.5 cents and 17 cents respectively, the group claims.

Taxes on a litre of gas in Metro Vancouver have risen a total of 2.5 cents since 2018, Sims said.

Sims said the province should eliminate the carbon tax and the excise tax and slash the TransLink tax by almost half to 10 cents per litre.

“We, as always, are calling for lower taxes on gasoline, not higher,” she said.

The Record requested an interview with New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy and Bruce Ralston, minister of jobs, trade and technology. Neither responded by deadline, but a spokesperson issued a statement attributed to Ralston. 

According to the statement, gas prices have risen by 40 cents in B.C. over the last three months while the carbon tax has only risen by one cent. 

“The other 39-cent increase is going to oil and gas companies who are gouging British Columbians. This kind of proposal (from the CTF) will not bring relief, but instead, as many experts have said, would act as a giant subsidy to the oil industry. Additionally, it would result in massive cuts to important services and transit investments that people depend on.”

But Sims said TransLink is an overfunded organization that could afford losing revenue from the gas tax by cutting executives pay.

“We think they need to do better budgeting,” she said. “We think that they need to live more within their means.”

The fuel tax covers approximately 26 per cent of TransLink’s operating budget, according to Jill Drews, a spokesperson for the transit authority.

“A seven-cent-per-litre cut suggested by the CTF would mean massive cuts to current service levels when overcrowding is already a problem,” Drews said.

The motor fuel tax that funds TransLink will increase from 17 to 18.5 cents in July to close a $30 million funding gap for service improvements, she said. 

That money will cover more than 900,000 bus service hours, new express “B-Line” buses, a 40 per cent increase in SkyTrain service along the Expo and Millenium lines, $75 million in road improvements and “much-anticipated SkyTrain extensions in Vancouver and Surrey,” Drews said.

“This expansion will not be possible without the fuel tax increase,” she said. 

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