TORONTO – Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy says the fuel tax hike recently announced in the provincial budget by the newly-elected Liberal government will boost airline fares and make it even more difficult for remote communities to access goods and services.
“Remote communities in the north are already feeling pinched by the economy and the high costs of goods and services. This fuel hike will only hurt these communities further,” stated Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy. “This issue will be very critical to northern communities. They are some of the poorest communities in the province yet they will be hit the hardest.”
In a budget tabled last week, Premier Kathleen Wynne proposed to phase in a four-cent-per-litre increase in the aviation fuel tax to 6.7 cents by 2017. The current tax of 2.7 cents per litre has been in place for more than two decades, but would rise by one cent per litre each year.
“The poor living conditions in First Nations communities, together with limited access to medical care, means our people have to travel often to southern clinics and hospitals for treatment for a range of health issues that were created by those conditions in the first place. This is both taxing on the families, the communities and the entire healthcare system. And now, with rising costs, it’s only getting worse,” added the Regional Chief.
Chiefs of Ontario state, “Canada’s airlines and airports are gearing up to fight Ontario’s plan to more than double the tax on aviation fuel. It’s been reported that the estimated revenue of $135-million from this tax during the next three years will be spent on public transit and transportation infrastructure in urban areas”.
It currently costs between $1000 to $1400 to fly return from Fort Severn First Nation to Sioux Lookout and over $1600 from Muskrat Dam First Nation to Thunder Bay.
A return ticket from Toronto to Paris France is $1200.
There has been some increased competition for passengers and freight recently.
Northstar Air has signed agreements with Muskrat Dam and Sachigo Lake to deliver air service.
The high cost of transportation to the north impacts healthcare, and impacts the cost of goods and services in Northern communities.
Prices for groceries in many northern communities would likely cause many people in the major urban centres to picket outside the grocery stores.
Many people are looking for alternatives. In Fort Severn, residents have started growing vegetables. Using old tires to grow potatoes is one example of how with a little work, there can be fresh and affordable food.
The task is not easy however. Residents seeking to improve the crop yield are bringing in soil from the south which must be shipped in.
However the yield and the opportunity to have annual bounty will help.