One nice thing about early posting of the fixed date for Ontario’s upcoming election (October 6, don’t you know?) is that the delay offers lots of time to dump stupidities without too many people noticing.
The NDP would be smart to use the head start to bury their promise to phase out the harmonized sales tax on car fuel, home heating and electricity.
In the NDP plan, Ontario residents would pay $1 billion less in energy taxes by 2015. Since the tax cut isn’t targeted, that annual billion-dollar windfall would apply equally to rich and poor – with one difference. The rich plug in more appliances, fill more tanks of oversized SUVs and heat more spacious and luxurious homes, and therefore would bag a bigger tax cut than the middle class.
By contrast, the NDP pledge to freeze public transit fares and top up public transit operating costs – matters of greatest relevance to those facing inequity in travel costs and transit subsidies – gets budgeted little more than a third, $375 million, of the money lost to taxes on energy consumption.
The “you deserve a tax break today” approach to government borrows too much from ultra-conservative theory and practice. Traditionally, New Democrats identified a positive role for government, doing things for communities that individuals can’t do alone, like pooling the costs of health care, using public purchasing to encourage local sustainable farming or installing energy conservation equipment in seniors’ homes to reduce their energy bills.
Government by tax cut reduces the power of government to fund programs in the public interest. Yet NDP tax cutters claim that an NDP government will be able to cap fuel prices set by the biggest companies in the world. Realistically, oil prices will only be capped when demand shrinks significantly thanks to either conservation or renewable fuels.
Energy tax cuts give no break whatsoever to those who conserve, and no premium to those who use renewable fuels. In this way, they indirectly support the high demand that keeps prices up.