Tory Leader Tim Hudak says a five-cent-a-litre hike in the cost of gasoline to pay for transit amounts to a “sin tax” designed to punish motorists.
Hudak was responding Thursday to reports that taxing gasoline is one of the main recommendations from a provincially appointed panel on how to raise money to pay for badly needed transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
“That’s a huge tax increase … I don’t think families can afford it. That’s going to cost hundreds of dollars,” he told reporters at Queen’s Park. “I don’t think the answer is to put some kind of sin tax on driving.”
Hudak said there is no need to increase taxes, instead that dipping into existing provincial revenue, selling off surplus properties and commercializing subway and GO Transit stations would cover the $2 billion a year necessary to deal with paralyzing gridlock.
“People have done enough to put money into the provincial treasury, it’s time that the government did our share,” he said offering a prelude to next week’s release of the party’s transit strategy.
Hudak said a Progressive Conservative government would establish a dedicated Ontario Transportation Trust, which he says would be audited annually to show the public where every transit dollar is being spent.
“We want to get people moving again in the City of Toronto and the GTA,” he said.
Hudak said the minority Liberal government can’t be trusted to put money raised from gasoline directly into transit, noting that when the Liberal brought in the Health Tax in the 2004 budget it ended up going into general revenue.
Hudak explained a Tory government would sell off the LCBO’s sprawling property on Toronto’s lakefront “and just behind me you’ve got the Ontario Power Generation headquarters that we know is filled with bureaucrats we don’t need on some pretty expensive real estate.”
“So why couldn’t you sell it off, downsize those operations on cheaper land and use that excess revenue to build subways?” he said.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the government will consider a number of recommendations on ways to raise money for transit.
When asked if a gas tax would be political suicide for the minority Liberal government, Sousa said decisions can’t be made on the basis of whether a government will get re-elected or not.
“We are making some tough decisions for the benefit of our future,” he said.