“Sounds like a rip-off to me and far from revenue neutral” – Rafferty

OTTAWA – With March now upon us, Spring is surely just around the corner along with everything the season brings. Unfortunately, Spring is also bringing our families pain throughout Northwestern Ontario as we are getting hit hard by rising energy costs, at home and at the pumps, and the rising cost of the HST on those energy products.

All winter long, we have been forced to pay more for the essential service of heating our homes, but the reality is just now beginning to set in as our bills finally arrive for the December-January period. For the hardest hit among us, including seniors, the imposition of the HST on the already rising cost of home heating has forced them to make choices that no Canadian should ever be faced with. My New Democrat colleagues and I have continually called on the Conservative government to remove the federal portion of the HST on home heating since we believe it is an essential service. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has chosen to turn their backs on this request, so far.

Over the past few weeks we’ve not only suffered through rising home heating costs, but also a big run up in the price of gas at the pumps. For the past month, the price of oil has been on the rise worldwide mostly because of the instability faced by oil producing regimes in the Middle East. But adding insult to that injury, the price at the pump is pushed even higher by the addition of the HST. Because the HST is a percentage based tax the amount collected per litre increases along with the price. This of course poses several problems for consumers.

Since the implementation of the HST last July, the effect of the tax has been hard to calculate, but the effect on gas prices is the exception to that rule. Since the GST never applied to the price of gas prior to harmonization, we know that the HST will raise the price of gas by 5% and that this money will go directly into federal coffers. The math then is as follows – for $1 per litre gas, the federal government is collecting an extra 5 cents per litre. With the recent run up in gas prices, topping $1.34 in Atikokan and Thunder Bay, the federal government is collecting – and we are paying – an extra 6.6 cents per litre. Should prices hit $1.50 this year, which is likely if the problems in the Middle East continue, then we will be paying the federal government 7.5 cents more per litre and heaven forbid 10 cents more if gas hits $2. Sounds like a rip-off to me and far from revenue neutral.

So what does this amount to? Well in a nutshell, pain for families and gain for government. As we pay more at the pumps – especially in Northwestern Ontario – the government reaps in additional HST revenue. The QMI media organization actually sifted through government data and found that the increase in prices over just the last two months alone is taking $6.7 million per week out of our pockets and putting that directly into the pockets of the federal government. That means that the price increase since late January will cost taxpayers $350 million per year – and that is just in federal HST revenue and does not include the original 5% increase on the price before January.

All of this means that families across our region will continue to have a harder time getting by and will be paying more to maintain a decent standard of living. We know that driving is not a luxury in our region. We need our cars and trucks to get to work, get our kids to hockey practice and travel long distances to important medical appointments. That’s all part of the cost of living in Northwestern Ontario, and the HST flies in the face of that reality and continues to punish our families.