Stefanson must do more to help at the pumps

Author: Gage Haubrich 2023/04/11

Premier Heather Stefanson knows high gas taxes are hurting Manitoba families. Now it’s time for Stefanson to act on that knowledge and offset the federal carbon tax by cutting provincial gas taxes.

On April 1, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau increased the federal carbon tax to 14 cents per litre of gasoline and 12 cents per cubic metre of natural gas. That means the carbon tax will soak a family for an extra $10 every time they fuel up their minivan.

The carbon tax will cost the average family $386 this year even after the rebates, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Trudeau plans to keep cranking up his carbon tax until it adds 37 cents to each litre of gas in 2030. By then, Trudeau’s carbon tax will cost the average family $1,490 every year even after the rebates.

The Manitoba government understands the pressure the carbon tax places on families.

“Manitobans will feel even more of a pinch when they are filling up the tank, buying groceries and heating their homes,” Stefanson said.

“Manitobans have suffered from the burden of rising costs due to inflation and the cost-shock of the federally imposed Liberal-NDP carbon tax,” Finance Minister Cliff Cullen said.

The government is right to call out the carbon tax. But talk is cheap. Especially when Stefanson’s provincial gas tax increases pump prices by the same amount as Trudeau’s carbon tax.

The average gas price in Winnipeg was about $1.54 per litre during the first week of April. About 30 per cent of the pump price is tax. The federal government charges 14 cents per litre for the carbon tax and 10 cents per litre as an excise tax. The provincial government also charges 14 cents per litre through its own gas tax.

That means Stefanson could fully offset the pain of Trudeau’s carbon tax at the pumps by cutting Manitoba’s own provincial gas tax.

Provinces across Canada have already provided significant relief to drivers by cutting gas taxes.

Ontario and Newfoundland reduced their gas taxes to give relief to drivers. On Jan. 1, Alberta completely suspended its entire gas tax, saving Alberta drivers up to $440 this year.

Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, India and Portugal are among the countries that cut fuel taxes since the beginning of the pandemic.

By following other provinces and suspending provincial gas taxes, Stefanson would save a Manitoban that fills up their vehicle once a week over $500 a year. That’s a substantial amount of money, and, unlike selective one-time cheques, cutting the gas tax provides relief from the carbon tax every single day.

In its latest budget, the government plans to increase spending by over $1.9 billion compared to last year. That is almost a 10 per cent increase. If the government holds the line and only increases spending by population growth and inflation, spending will rise by $1.5 billion. That difference would be enough for the province to completely suspend the gas tax to provide relief and reduce the deficit by over $140 million.

To its credit, the Manitoba government is putting money back into taxpayers’ pockets through the carbon tax relief fund. And its recent income tax relief  will save a taxpayer up to $524 this year. It’s a good start, but Manitobans still pay too much tax. A family making $70,000 in Winnipeg will still pay more tax than a similar family living in Regina, Calgary or Toronto.

Stefanson deserves credit for fighting Trudeau’s carbon tax hikes. But Stefanson needs to do more than talk, she needs to cut the provincial gas tax. 

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