David Brown on Gas Taxes

Gas Taxes – Why they matter to you

by David Brown, Candidate for City Council

FFor many residents that live in rural Ottawa, driving our own vehicles is the only reasonable way to travel around our City. Public transportation either does not exist or is not accessible. This means that we have to regularly fill up our vehicles with gas. Every time we fill up at the gas pump, we are paying gas taxes. Some of these taxes go to the Federal Government, some to the Provincial Government. A portion of the taxes collected by these two levels of governments gets returned to the municipality where these taxes were collected; in our case, Ottawa. In 2018, the City of Ottawa expects to collect roughly $92 million in gas taxes, $36 million from Ontario and another $56 million from the Federal Government.

Provincial legislation mandates that provincial gas taxes be spent solely on public transit, however, the Federal Government lists 18 acceptable uses for the federal funds; number 1 on the list is local roads; further down at number 7 is public transit.

Unfortunately, for rural Ottawa, Councillors voted to spend the Federal Gas Taxes on public transit, specifically, a new bus staging area at Tunney’s Pasture and new buses for OC Transpo. I wish this was the exception, however, it seems to be the rule. Over the last eight years, federal gas taxes have been spent on everything from transit stations, new buses, IT equipment and LRT projects, but not on our roads. These taxes are funded by drivers that cannot or do not use public transit. This is money that should be used to repair our crumbling roads, not paying for something that many of us won’t benefit from directly.

Driving around rural Ottawa, there are many examples of roads that are falling apart, that are riddled with potholes and cracks, or have shoulders that have broken apart. A 2017 City staff report stated 75% of Ottawa’s roads need repairs. In the same report, City staff estimated the total replacement value of Ottawa’s roads at $12.6 billion. The City’s entire roads repair budget only amounts to just over 1% or $44.8 million of the City’s overall spending in 2018. A better example would be a homeowner trying to renovate a $300,000 home that is falling apart, using a budget of $1,000 to do it. This means every year, there are roads that don’t get repaired.

The strategy for eight years of ‘going along to get along’ has not worked. Rural Councillors need to end their complacency and form a united front and fight together to get more funding for roads. It is the residents in the rural area that are most affected by poor road conditions. If rural Councillors are serious about taking meaningful action and repairing Ottawa’s roads, then we need more than just 1% of the budget. Getting our fair share of the gas taxes would be a good start.

2 responses

  1. Adam Robichaud says:

    You’re proposing that rather than diversify our transit system so that Richmond can take advantage of these services we pay for, we should abandon the projects — both for the people who already depend on them, and people who could switch to them as energy-conscious citizens? This, combined with your proposal to divert investment in a green waste-management facility towards an incinerator is environmentally and fiscally irresponsible — both short-term, as they would incur contract cancellation penalties, and long-term as carbon-taxes come into effect. They don’t reduce carbon emissions, they don’t improve the walkability of Richmond main street, they don’t make better, more efficient use of our tax dollars.

    I respect that you’ve got a plan and that we’ve got a difference of opinion, but I fail to see how pivoting hard on every front results in the reduced deficits you’re after. So which is it you’re actually after: reduced deficits, or a destruction of the green movement?

    • Hi Adam, Thank you for leaving a comment. I don’t have any issues with the City diversifying it’s transit network, however the federal gas tax money being spent this year to purchase new buses is to replace older buses being retired out of service, not increasing the level of transit service that we have in Rideau-Goulbourn. I do believe that Ottawa has a responsibility to adequately maintain our roads in a state of good repair, which is not being done. What I would like to see is a redirection of taxes that are paid for by drivers that fill up their vehicles and have this money spent on our roads. For those that live in Richmond and Manotick, we already pay a transit levy to support public transit, whether we use it or not. Again, not something I have a problem with, but I do believe we have a valid case to ask to have some of the gas taxes collected by the City spent on repairing roads.

      To your point on garbage, I’m not advocating on cancelling any contracts that the City has already signed, in fact, I’m a proponent of increasing diversion rates. The simple fact remains however, that we are stuck with the dump in our Ward which won’t change, and no matter how successful the City is at convincing residents to recycle and to use the green bin, there will always be waste. As Ottawa grows, the amount of waste our City produces will increase. The majority of this residential waste ends up at Trail Road. Durham Region operates a high efficiency incinerator that utilizes curbside collection, just like we do here in Ottawa. This incinerator increases diversion rates further by having a separator built into the facility. On the website (https://www.durhamyorkwaste.ca/) it lists several statistics about how much metal is recycled, the fact that the facility uses a zero waste water process and the revenue that is made by generating electricity. The current waste management model used by Ottawa at the Trail Road Dump is not environmentally friendly, costs millions of dollars each year to manage and maintain and has a significant negative long-term impact on the environment. If we know that there will always be some level of waste that cannot or is not recycled, why wouldn’t we look at a way to minimize the impact of burying garbage and leaving it there for the long-term? Rideau-Goulbourn can’t move the dump, so we need City Council to invest in a long-term sustainable solution that helps manage diversion rates, and looks to dispose of waste differently.

      Again, thank you for your comments. I appreciate the discussion.


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