FOULDS: Passing the buck on gas

In the past five days, I had to twice drive to and from Vancouver. That’s 1,400 kilometres. Such long, tedious excursions allow one to catch up on podcasts and daydreams.

The road trips also reveal the increasing insanity of gas prices the farther one travels west. From $1.32 per litre in Kamloops, to $1.45 in Merritt, to $1.56 in Hope, to $1.59 in Abbotsford, to $1.72 in Langley and beyond, every kilometre travelled westward makes one wonder if an expensive electric vehicle may finally be a wise investment.

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Seeing the mind-boggling prices reminded me of the ridiculous Twitter campaign now being waged by B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and many of the party’s MLAs as they demand Premier John Horgan do something, anything, to bring those prices down.

The problem with this attack, as I mentioned to KTW reporter Michael Potestio when he went to interview Wilkinson at a Kamloops agricultural forum two weeks ago, is that we didn’t hear Wilkinson or other B.C. Liberals call for action on gas prices when the cost was high under their administration. While the pump prices have hit record highs in Metro Vancouver — due mainly to that jurisdiction’s 17-cent per litre Translink tax commuters outside of the area do not pay — prices were nearly as obscene during the B.C. Liberal reign.

In 2013 and 2014, gas was selling for $1.50 per litre in the Greater Vancouver area and in Kamloops. In Kamloops, the price of each litre of gas includes 17.6 cents in federal taxation and 17.4 cents in provincial taxes. Of the 17.4 cents in provincial taxes, the current NDP government is responsible for two cents — the one-penny carbon tax hikes on April 1, 2018, and April 1, 2019. The rest of the provincial taxes on gas?

Well, as freely available data will tell you, those were raised mightily by the B.C. Liberals through their 16 years in power. Martyn Brown, chief of staff to former B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell, laid it out in devastating fashion this week in an article in the Georgia Straight, in which he pointed out Wilkinson’s hypocrisy in complaining about rising gas taxes, for which the B.C. Liberals “are most directly responsible.”

The B.C. Liberals, after all, increased the Translink tax to 17 cents per litre from 12 cents and added the first 6.5 cents of the carbon tax on fuel, which today sits at 8.9 cents per litre. And, while Wilkinson has zeroed in on the carbon tax, Brown noted that the B.C. Liberals, in their 2017 throne speech, vowed to do exactly what the NDP is now doing with respect to that tax. (The B.C. Liberals will argue the carbon tax under their governance was revenue-neutral.

And it was, for about five years.

However, beginning in 2013, according to a Fraser Institute study, it ceased being revenue-neutral. “By 2013/2014, the government was no longer solely relying on new tax reductions to offset carbon-tax revenue and instead began using pre-existing tax credits to give the appearance of revenue neutrality.

Carbon taxes will add up to an $865-million tax increase on British Columbians. In fact, a number of the tax credits the government now counts as offsets were first introduced in the 1990s — well before their inclusion in the government’s revenue-neutral calculation,” states the 2017 Fraser Institute study.)

When KTW asked Wilkinson what could be done, he replied: “The province should pick a cap and above that provide some kind of rebate on provincial taxation because it’s really hard on people when they’ve got to adjust to these rapid changes.

Horgan’s busy blaming it on the oil companies, but he’s got a handle on 35 cents a litre that he can control.”

The problems with that comment are: a) taxation has nothing to do with overnight 20-cent-per-litre price hikes, as was seen this week at some Kamloops stations, and b) where will the province recoup the billions of dollars in revenue if such caps were implemented?

Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

© Kamloops This Week


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