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Dealer's Voice: No Thanks, Premier, we're already Taxed Enough

Wynne hinted recently that Ontario drivers could be asked to pay more taxes to address gridlock and infrastructure issue.

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When Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was sworn into office in February, many Ontarians looked forward to hearing some new ideas and fresh thinking in tackling big issues facing the province.

One of those big issues is traffic gridlock in the GTA and aging infrastructure throughout the province. According to the Toronto Board of Trade, gridlock alone within the GTA costs the local economy $6 billion per year.

But when Wynne hinted recently that Ontario drivers could be asked to pay more taxes to address gridlock and infrastructure issue, I was deeply disappointed, as were many Ontarians and Ontario drivers.

While she was Transportation Minister in 2011, Wynne was not in favour of road tolls and current Transportation Minister Glen Murray also advocated against road tolls, a position he took during the recent Ontario Liberal Party leadership.

The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, which represents 1,100 new car dealers across Ontario, was shocked to learn that Wynne is considering the idea of implementing new tolls or taxes across the province. Ontario drivers already send $10 billion per year to the province in vehicle and driver-related taxes and fees.

However, the province spent only $3.1 billion on provincial highways and similar expenditures last year. Which means the remaining $6.9 billion went into general revenue. Is reinvesting 31 per cent of the revenue back into transportation fair? Is asking the Ontario drivers to pay more in taxes and fees reasonable? The answer to both questions is no.

Gridlock and aging infrastructure pose enormous logistical challenges for the GTA and the province, and huge financial investments will be required to remedy these problems. There?s no easy solution. What I am opposed to, however, is the prospect of taxing Ontario drivers for new revenue streams.

Ontario drivers are tired of the high costs of operating a vehicle in this province (taxes represent a significant contribution to those costs). Ontario?s 2012 budget increased driver and vehicle fees by $340 million per year, while cutting highway expansion and HOV projects by $229 million.

Ontarians are paying their fair share of taxes to fund Ontario roads and bridges every year, and there are at least 16 different taxes and fees related to owning and operating a vehicle in Ontario. Instead of increasing taxes, the Ontario government should better spend the $10 billion it receives from drivers and close the $7 billion gap in taxes paid, and roads and bridges being built.

Not too long ago, the province commissioned Donald Drummond to report on public sector reform. The report suggested 362 recommendations to balance Ontario?s budget. Maybe the government should revisit the report to look for alternative ways of funding the gridlock and aging infrastructure.

Cost-cutting solutions will almost certainly be controversial, but they are necessary if the province hopes to get address gridlock and other monumental issues facing the province in the years ahead. Hitting drivers with another tax is misguided and unfair.

Critics have argued that more drivers should abandon their vehicles and start using public transit only, but for the majority of Ontario?s 9 million drivers, public transportation is not the silver bullet for their entire transportation needs. Whether it?s commuting to work, picking up children from daycare or simply buying groceries, driving a vehicle is an absolute necessity in this province.

Wynne should do the right thing and abandon plans to increase driver and vehicle taxes that Ontario families can ill afford to pay.

Drivers are not responsible for Ontario?s massive $14 billion deficit ? and should not be asked to pay more because the government can?t balance the budget.

Raising taxes is not the answer to gridlock and infrastructure issues. The answer lies in better fiscal management, increased efficiencies and greater accountability of the public?s finances.

This column represents the view of TADA. Email president@tada.ca or visit tada.ca. Frank Romeo, president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, is a new car dealer in the GTA.

  • Dealer's Voice: No Thanks, Premier, we're already Taxed Enough
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