David Brown on Gas Taxes

Gas Taxes – Why they matter to you

by David Brown, Candidate for City Council

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]For 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.