Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said she is just like any other average person in Ontario that relies on their vehicle for work and life – she has had enough of paying high prices at the pumps.
Horwath was in Greater Sudbury July 28 announcing her party's plan to reduce the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on gasoline by one percent every year, along with exemptions for hydro and home heating.
The announcement comes on the heels of another promise the NDP made last month, stating a NDP government would make the Ontario Energy Board responsible for setting a weekly cap on gas prices and prevent shocking and abrupt gas price hikes.
“People are fed up with big oil companies gouging at the pumps,” Horwath said. “Particularly at times like this, a long weekend...or a crisis around the world. All of a sudden gas prices go up just because they know they can do it and they know they can get away with it. When gas prices jump, what goes through my mind is how unfair it is.
“(Gas companies) don't need that money. They're making money hand-over-fist. People in communities like (Greater Sudbury) are stuck having to pay those prices. It's only because of opportunistic gouging, not because of real differences.”
“The HST was a shift in responsibility for taxation off corporations onto the backs of everyday families,” she said. “It was an unfair tax shift. How can we afford it? We are going to start paying for that by reversing the Liberal tax giveaway. The Liberals have decided not only do corporations benefit from the HST, but they also have a massive corporation tax reduction, and we're going to start reversing that.”
Horwath stated the NDP's plan will be province-wide, but there will be “regional differences” based on transportation costs.
The NDP has done calculations and figure the average family with two children will save $375 a year by the fourth year of the roll back on HST on gasoline. Horwath expects the plan to provide stability and predictability for consumers so they can better manage tight budgets.
“We're taking a gradual approach,” she said. “It has to be done in a responsible way that is affordable for the province. It's all about making life affordable for the people of this province.
“It's also about acknowledging we have fiscal realities in this province and we have to keep an eye on that as well. We're pretty much the only province in Eastern Canada that doesn't have some kind of regulation of the gas prices.”
Nickel Belt NDP MPP France Gélinas sees the struggle of people in her riding on a daily basis.
She said something has to be done to ease the burden on people in the north, as most are at the mercy of the pumps.
“There is minimal public transit in Nickel Belt. Most people have to depend on their cars,” she said. “Most fill up their cars every week. We have listened to the people.
“They have told us we have to do something. They have no choice but to put gas in their cars. There is no alternative, so people buy the gas regardless of price. It means they have to cut back on other expenses from the family budget...cutting back on food and clothes. It isn't right.”
The Ontario Liberal government was aware of Horwath's visit and announcement and came back swinging. The Liberals are not buying what the NDP is saying.
“The NDP have no plan. It’s that simple,” Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci said in a press release. “By regulating gas prices, the people of Sudbury will be forced to foot the increased cost of gas from Andrea Horwath’s short-sighted ‘scheme.'”
Bartolucci's press release claims the NDP won't remove the HST from gasoline until 2019-2020.
He also said average prices in provinces that regulate gasoline are consistently more expensive over time than what we see in Ontario.
The Liberals have come up with “real solutions,” the press release said, including a permanent income tax cut for 93 per cent of Ontarians, the Ontario Sales Tax Credit which helps save up to $260 a year, the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit that removes 10 per cent off of electricity bills and the Energy and Property Tax Credit that provides up to $1,025 a year.
In response to Bartolucci's press release, the NDP said the HST starts coming off gas immediately, and gas prices are lower where they're capped.
Gas prices in Halifax are currently four cents per litre higher than Greater Sudbury, even though gas is less expensive to produce and transport in Ontario, the press release said.
The NDP also claim that independent studies have found that gas regulation on the East Coast reduced profit taking in the gas industry.
-Posted by Heidi Ulrichsen
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