From Queen’s Park – Government can provide help from high gas prices

Sarah Campbell MPP
Sarah Campbell MPP

Sarah Campbell-MPPKENORA – Leaders Ledger – For the past decade high gasoline prices have been a source of frustration for people- regardless of their age, location or income.

Here in the north, the impact of high gas prices hits us especially hard, given our vast geography and the need to travel for many primary services, such as healthcare.

What makes this especially frustrating is that local vendors have little or no say over the prices they charge, meaning it often feels that there is nothing that can be done to alleviate the pinch on our pocketbooks, particularly when the price of a barrel of oil drops with seemingly no impact on the price at the pumps.

While some of the causes of high gas prices may be out of our control, the truth is many factors are within our control.

On July 1st of 2010, for instance, the price across Ontario jumped at least eight cents a litre, when the Provincial PST was merged with the Federal GST, creating the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Gasoline, which had previously been subject to only the five per cent GST, was then taxed at 13 per cent: a significant increase as a result of the decision by both the federal and provincial governments. The new prices are especially painful for border communities, like Fort Frances, Rainy River and Kenora, because the U.S. and Manitoba, who rejected the HST, remained unchanged. While other communities are often hit with high prices due to their remoteness.

Before being elected, I spearheaded a riding-wide information campaign on the impacts of the HST, and while I, and my NDP colleagues, were not able to stop the tax that was supported by the Liberals and Conservatives, we remain committed to price fairness and have pledged that an NDP government would phase out the provincial portion of the HST on gasoline. We firmly believe essential goods and services should not be subject to high taxes. We all know that in the North, public transportation is most often not an option, and that for many, operating a vehicle is a necessity.

More recently, this past May my party used one of our Opposition Day Motions to put forward a plan that would have empowered the Ontario Energy Board to set a weekly price cap. In other provinces this has been an effective means of providing price-certainty and giving an organization the power to investigate potential gouging by oil companies. Unfortunately, only one other MPP, Liberal Kim Craitor, supported our motion and it did not go forward.

Despite this setback, we remain committed to protecting consumers from the rising price of this essential fuel, both from the hands of big industry and greedy governments.

We know that continued pressure will result in price protection and the fairer taxes that other provinces enjoy. We remain committed to doing everything we can to keeping up the pressure on this issue and accomplishing this end.

Sarah Campbell MPP

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Sarah Campbell is a Canadian politician, who was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 2011 election. She represents the electoral district of Kenora—Rainy River as a member of the Ontario New Democratic Party caucus