Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

It’s a lack of “joined up thinking”

with 2 comments

One of the images that often comes up in discussions of policy changes is the problem of turning a supertanker around once it is underway. The carbon tax is a bit like that.

The “joined up thinking” phrase was coined by the New Labour spin doctors working for Tony Blair – and all too often that administration showed it couldn’t do it either.

The BC Liberals are supposed to be heading off in a new direction. It is, they claim, no longer “business as usual”, but it takes a while for the message to get from the bridge to the engine room. BC has had a car rental tax for a while. The idea is that it is a lot easier to hit visitors than locals – and more visitors rent cars than locals do. Like hotel room taxes, they tend to be popular with voters – who generally don’ t have to pay them. People who rent cars tend to be business travellers on expenses – so they don’t really care how much they pay, it is just a cost of doing business, which is either recovered from customers, or written off against other taxes. (And if you doubt that, just look at what the big car rental companies charge for weekday rentals at airports compared to the weekend offers aimed at the leisure markets.)

The car rental tax was dreamt up before car co-ops appeared on the scene. Now this serves a very different market to the car rental companies. The idea is if you live somewhere where you do not need to own a car for everyday travel, you might join a group that allowed you to use a vehicle when transit or a bike is not going to meet your needs. A trip to IKEA, for example. In fact some downtown condos were allowed to cut back on the number of parking spaces they had to build (which reduced their costs of development) in return for buying car coop memberships for the new residents. People who do not own cars, but belong to car co-ops use cars much less. And use transit, walking and cycling much more than the car owning majority. So car co-ops are good for reducing ghg emissions.

But that idea has yet to penetrate the deeper recesses of the Ministry of Finance. The spinmeisters saw the value of not trying to collect back taxes, but could not seem to get their heads around the need to exempt car co-ops from future passenger vehicle rental tax — a fee of $1.50 every time a member takes a car. It is not like we are talking huge amounts in terms of lost government revenues. Its just the “optics” as usual.

I expect they will let it sit a while, and then take the opportunity for another announcement, when they need to be seen to be doing the right thing. For now, there’s enough green glow from the budget.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2008 at 11:35 am

2 Responses

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  1. The tax only applies for rentals of more than 8 hours which are rare for carshares. It still would have been more logical to exempt them entirely, but it is better than your post implies.


    February 21, 2008 at 7:07 pm

  2. I agree with Declan. I’m a member of CAN, and I think I’ve only taken a car out for more than 8 hours twice in the past year.


    February 25, 2008 at 4:53 pm

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