A Billion? Don't Worry

Thursday, July 23, 2015   by: Bill Walton

The Conservative Finance Minister has been tossing billion dollars around as if they were mere pennies (which we don’t have any longer). Economists, bankers and stock market gurus have been batting a billion dollars around like the Blue Jays hitting summer homers. Words like deficit and recession are redefined every day as the dollar dips and sinks, but we are assured by all of our next would-be prime ministers that they can and will right the ship of state.

I was a little concerned about the Child Care Summer Santa Fund being 3 billion dollars doled out to people who have young children, not because we did not get a cheque, but because it seemed like a lot of money that suddenly appeared out of thin air. Then when the fine print followed about how 30% of it would be taxed back next April and how the money would be spent, earning HST dollars back into the federal coffers, I felt a little better. Not only would the money be a nice windfall for lower-income families (no Liberal means test yet) but it would give a small boost to the flagging economy.

Then the other day as I was filling up my thirsty vehicle, I read again the tax notice glued to the gasoline pump as the dollars gurgled into the tank and out of my wallet. That little light bulb that appears above your head when you have a brilliant thought came on: it’s the HST, dummy, the words said!

A little internet research and I discovered how many litres of gasoline and diesel fuel we Canadians burn every year. First, I had to get my head around that figure – a billion. I used to struggle with how much a million was until I realized that a million-dollar lottery dream would not buy me that much any longer. So I added another three zeroes and tried to imagine how much that would buy. A thousand times more. But how many BMWs do I need? I digress. We Canadians will burn 60,000,000,000 litres of fuel in 2015. Sixty billion.

Now just suppose you are the person in charge of the Federal (or Provincial) budget and you need an extra billion dollars. Now suppose that you see your humble minions consuming 5 billion litres of fuel each month and suppose if you calculated your share of a 20 or even 10 cent price increase per litre how that would ease your balancing problem. Let’s use the 20 cent jump on the price we recently experienced. 5%, the portion of the HST, would amount to a penny (if we still had them). For those who can’t do this in their head (the New Math) get your smart phone out and do the math. 5 billion pennies is how many dollars? Multiply that by the number of months until the October election or until the next budget in April 2016.

And all this time we were blaming the gas companies for these jumps in gas prices that seemed to have nothing to do with the price of a barrel of crude. Is it any wonder why our federal and provincial politicians will do nothing to control the price of fuel? For all I know, they are the ones whispering in the ear of the gas people, suggesting they ought to raise the price of fuel.

Perhaps The Bare Naked Ladies should update their song: If I Had a Billion Dollars . . . or a gas station.

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