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North Bay's slice of gas tax means cash for bus system but no relief in sight for beleaguered motorists

Municipalities that support public transit services in their community receive two cents per litre of provincial Gas Tax revenue
gas pump 2016

Next time you're filling up your tank and cursing how much money it's costing to do so...think of North Bay's bus system.

It may, or likely may not, soften the blow to know that a portion of the tax that's inflating the cost of fuel will support the expansion and improvement of public transit services in Ontario.

Specifically, $909,919 will go to North Bay Transit. The yearly funding is part of the province’s Gas Tax program which will allocate $375.6 million this year to 107 municipalities that have public transit.

"Funding for the Gas Tax program is determined by the number of litres of gasoline sold in the province during the previous year, says a government news release. "Municipalities that support public transit services in their community receive two cents per litre of provincial Gas Tax revenue, which can be used to extend service hours, buy transit vehicles, add routes, improve accessibility or upgrade infrastructure."

To make up for reduced gas sales due to COVID-19, this year’s Gas Tax funding includes one-time additional funding of $120 million.

Mayor Al McDonald says in the release that the funding will be especially needed this year, as the transit system continues to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile,  the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, (CTF) in its own news release, says Premier Ford has failed in his promise to provide a gas tax cut in the province of Ontario.

"Late last year, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he would keep his promise to cut the provincial gas excise tax by 5.7 cents per litre, nearly four years after he first made the commitment to Ontario voters," says the release. "After years of stalling, the Ford government says Ontarians will finally get relief at the pumps by the end of March."

Ford told Ontario voters in 2018 that gas prices were too high, and that the government needed to do something about it.

“Every day, I hear from people who are fed up,” said Ford. “Fed up with being gouged at the pump.”

Ford pledged a 5.7 cent per litre cut in provincial gas excise taxes, according to the CTF.

"A family filling up a minivan and a sedan once a week stands to save over $390 a year through the premier’s government’s proposed tax cut," says Jay Goldberg, CTF Ontario Director.

"Cutting gas taxes is a good idea when one looks at a breakdown of gas prices. Last month, drivers paid an average of 52.5 cents per litre in taxes when filling up their gas tanks, according to the government of Ontario’s own data," says Goldberg.

"That translates into $39.90 in taxes when a single mom fills up her minivan to drive her kids to school, buy groceries, and get herself to work."

Tax rates on gasoline will go even higher this April with the federal government’s planned carbon tax hike.

Gas prices in North Bay are hovering around the $1.49 mark this morning.

Motorists in the north are still waiting for Ford to make good on his promise to investigate the "totally unfair" difference in gas prices between northern and southern Ontario.

See: Gas price difference in northern Ontario 'totally unfair' says Ford

And: Gas stations turn deaf ear to Premier Ford and jack up prices

Back in the spring of 2020 when North Bay gas prices were in the .77 cent range, Ford told a news conference in Toronto  that much higher gas prices in northern Ontario are 'totally' unfair' and that Minister of Energy Greg Rickford is "all over this."

"People are paying 20 to 30 per cent more in Thunder Bay and other regions, but we'll get down to the bottom of this, I promise you," said Ford. "We're already all over this."

Last October the Ontario government killed an NDP bill that would have "put an end to gas price gouging in northern Ontario."

See: Bill to stop the spikes in gas prices ignored by the government says NDP

John Vanthof (Timiskaming-Cochrane), was one of seven MPPs signing a statement that said Doug Ford has had three years to help northerners who are paying the highest prices for gasoline in the province, with no end in sight.

"He should have used the tools he has had in his hands since he stepped into office to help make life more affordable for northern families, but he has refused," Vanthof said.

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