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Drive Clean fee cut to $30

Much criticized 'cash grab' lowered by $5, but critics say that's not good enough

Published December 17, 2013

By Robert Benzie, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief

Environment Minister Jim Bradley is putting a fiver in the stockings of urban Ontario motorists with a reduction in Drive Clean fees.

Starting April 1, the controversial mandatory vehicle emissions inspection will cost $30 plus HST, down from $35.

“Thisfee reduction will ensure Drive Clean is revenue neutral while it reduces automobile pollution and protects public health,” Bradley told reporters Wednesday at Queen’s Park.

Drive Clean, which was launched in 1999 by the former Progressive Conservative government, forces motorists living in cities to have their seven-years or older cars to be inspected every two years.

Last year, the provincial auditor general found that Drive Clean would have made $50 million in “profit” by 2018 if the fee wasn’t cut.

Bradley noted that would be illegal after a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that said revenue-neutral government programs cannot be profitable.

Drive Clean ran a deficit for 12 years due to start-up costs, but went into surplus in 2011.

Conservative MPP Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga) said the announcement is “not good enough for Ontario drivers.”

“Scrap it,” said Harris, noting the program was never designed to be permanent.

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay) said Drive Clean should be kept in place, but questioned why the Liberals were acting now.

“What they’re doing is going after the low-lying fruit, which is the $5 reduction,” said Bisson.

The Ontario Medical Association has estimated that smog is a factor in the premature death of about 9,500 people in the province each year.

In advance of the announcement, critics were already saying reducing the fee “isn’t going to be good enough.”

Drive Cleans should be scrapped all together,” Tory transportation critic Michael Harris told the Star Tuesday.

Harris has often criticized Liberals for imposing more than $19 million in “illegal taxes.” Even the Supreme Court of Canada has frowned on so-called revenue neutral government programs being turn into a cash cow.

“It was never supposed to make money. It was set up as a temporary program with a very specific purpose of reducing vehicle emissions. The evidence shows that less than 5 per cent of vehicles are failing the test because of new fuel efficiencies and fuel standards,” he said, comparing it to 16 per cent when the program was first introduced.

With files from Richard Brennan

Environment Minister Jim Bradley is putting a fiver in the stockings of urban Ontario motorists with a reduction in Drive Clean fees.

Starting April 1, the controversial mandatory vehicle emissions inspection will cost $30 plus HST, down from $35.

“This http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2013/12/17/drive_clean_35_fee_to_be_reduced.htmlfee reductionEND will ensure Drive Clean is revenue neutral while it reduces automobile pollution and protects public health,” Bradley told reporters Wednesday at Queen’s Park.

Drive Clean, which was launched in 1999 by the former Progressive Conservative government, forces motorists living in cities to have their seven-years or older cars to be inspected every two years.

Last year, the provincial auditor general found that Drive Clean would have made $50 million in “profit” by 2018 if the fee wasn’t cut.

Bradley noted that would be illegal after a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that said revenue-neutral government programs cannot be profitable.

Drive Clean ran a deficit for 12 years due to start-up costs, but went into surplus in 2011.

Conservative MPP Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga) said the announcement is “not good enough for Ontario drivers.”

“Scrap it,” said Harris, noting the program was never designed to be permanent.

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay) said Drive Clean should be kept in place, but questioned why the Liberals were acting now.

“What they’re doing is going after the low-lying fruit, which is the $5 reduction,” said Bisson.

The Ontario Medical Association has estimated that smog is a factor in the premature death of about 9,500 people in the province each year.

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