No relief on gas taxes expected from Ontario government

Ontario appears unlikely to follow in the footsteps of the Alberta government, which has temporarily paused its provincial gas tax, a move that will save drivers 13 cents per litre.

By Mike Visser and Richard Southern

It doesn’t appear that any relief is on the way for Ontario drivers who have been grappling with high gas prices.

With prices soaring in recent weeks, the Alberta government has announced a plan to temporarily pause its tax of 13 cents a litre on gas and diesel. Yet a similar move appears unlikely from Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government.

“We’ve already moved to give motorists a break here in Ontario,” said Energy Minister Todd Smith. “We’ve cut the cap and trade as you know back in 2018 which reduced the price at the pumps by 4.3 cents a litre, and we’ve asked the federal government to look at taxes as well.”

Smith pointed to recently announced moves to eliminate fees for licence plate stickers and to remove tolls from two Toronto-area highways as his government’s plan to save money for drivers. Instead, he’s calling on leaders in Ottawa to pause an upcoming increase to the carbon tax.

“Any further taxation break that will come will be contingent on the federal government making a change. We encourage the federal government to reduce or at least pause their increase of the carbon tax on April 1.”

That planned carbon tax increase is expected to boost gas prices by another eight cents per litre. The move would come at a time that gas prices are already soaring due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“What we’re seeing is exactly what the carbon tax was intended to do, is drive up the price of everything and make life more expensive,” said Smith. “At this time in particular, it makes sense for the federal government to lead the way and put a pause on that increase in carbon tax.”

That call is not sitting well with Ontario’s Green Party leader, who believes consumers will benefit from the planned increase.

“Quite frankly the carbon pricing actually gives people a rebate that for most people puts more money in their pockets which will help them address affordability challenges,” said Mike Schreiner. “I would say don’t get rid of those carbon rebates, I want those for Ontarians.”

While Albertans will receive some temporary relief at the pumps, any potential move to pause provincial gas taxes here in Ontario would not have the support of the leader of the Opposition.

“It is not a good idea to take those gas taxes away because they fund our health care and our education system and so many other things, so we have to be really, really thoughtful,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

“The gas regulation is the way to go. We’ve been trying to get Liberal governments and Conservative governments to implement that for years now. We will fix it when we form government.”

With an election looming in June, Ontario’s Liberal party is pushing aside any talk of pausing provincial gas taxes in favour of increasing incentives for purchasing electric vehicle.

“I think there’s also a responsibility to move forward to help people transition away from fossil fuel burning vehicles,” said Liberal leader Steven Del Duca.

Prices currently sit at 184.9 cents per litre at most GTA stations, with another increase expected on Wednesday.

Some GTA gas station operators are telling CityNews they are also seeing a spike in drivers filling up and taking off without paying. 

The previous record high at the pumps in Ontario was $1.61 per litre before the surge in the last week.

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