Photo by functoruser.
The dramatic rise in gas prices has the prime minister wannabes speaking out against it. However, as much as they talk, like our mamas taught us, actions count for more than words. And we’re willing to gamble that not a single leader has had to pump his or her own gas in recent months.
Otherwise, why the inaction over the arguably number one thing on the minds of Torontonians—and Canadians—for the past year: gas prices, gas prices, gas prices. Watching as the price of gas goes up while the price of oil plummets is the cruelest joke, and citizens from across the GTA from Mississauga to Vaughan to Pickering are suffering prices of $1.38 per litre. (Forget the politico-babble trying to divide small towns and cities: across Ontario—from Chatham to Nepean—jaws dropped as the numbers outside petrol stations surged 9%. Anyone can see we’re all being equally gouged, city folk and country folk alike.)
What are the Canadian political parties planning to do? Don’t bother looking on their websites; there isn’t any information worth the pixels it’s shown on. On the Conservative website, click under “Key Issues.” Did you know that gas at $1.40 a litre is not one of them? Funny: listen to the conversation in offices, in restaurants, and in homes. It’s a key issue. Move to the Liberal website: anything on gas price concerns? Not anywhere easily found. (At least Dion is supporting a new refinery out east, which could reduce price volatility.) The Greens are too busy patting themselves on the back for getting in on the debate. Et le Bloc Québécois? Rien. Only the NDP mentions stopping gas price gouging, via an ombudsman to follow up on complaints—a step in the right direction, but not nearly specific or aggressive enough.
Photo by photojunkie from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
The only relief Canadians got was the cut in GST by 2%. Unfortunately, that’s only two to three cents per litre. The jump in gas prices overnight was up to 600% that amount. People might say that it’s better than nothing, except in this case it actually is nothing. On gas, the government charges tax on top of tax. According to the CAA, gas prices are made up of 30 to 40% taxes, including a federal government excise tax of 10 cents per litre. The government then applies the GST on top of this total gas price, which means the government gets an extra two to three cents per litre in tax-on-tax, which washes out the GST cut. Some tax relief. Why did Jim Prentice get his underwear in knots over incoming text message costs when, for over a year, Canadians have asked for more reasonable gas prices?
We’re not suggesting that the politicians are incapable of finding a solution, we just believe that these elections reek of cheap parlour games: the political parties spend hundreds of millions of dollars playing Musical Chairs with the music so loud they can’t hear what we’re saying. (Why else are the Conservatives holding off on revealing what they’d do, instead “hinting” that they had a plan? Why serve the people ahead of the politics, right?)
How about bumping up the number of refineries in Canada so we’re not sitting ducks every time hurricanes L, M, N, O, and P hit the Gulf of Mexico? How about stopping the tax-on-tax so that the government isn’t stealing pennies out of one pocket and placing them back into the other pretending it’s tax relief? How about not belittling the Canadian public with ads on bird poop when that money—every last cent—could have gone into plans to fund alternative energy sources to oil, like solar and wind, to create the desperately needed manufacturing jobs in Ontario?
Without any strategies from Ottawa, drivers can expect painful gas prices for the near future. Last week, energy expert Joanne Hruska predicted on BNN’s Market Call that oil prices may increase during the winter period. When asked if the public could expect a similar 9% drop in gas prices once the worries over Ike are over, Hruska replied: “Come on.” Gas prices never go down in the same way they go up, she noted. Come on, indeed.