Stephen Rees's blog

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

Gasoline taxes denounced

with 7 comments


Maureen Bader is an idiot. I saw her on the CBC News last night and choked on my thin crust vegetarian pizza.

Her thesis is that gasoline “is the new tobacco”. Actually that idea has some traction. But not the way she thinks. Government raises taxes on tobacco for two reasons. As a deterrent and as a way to pay for the damage that tobacco causes. There is a direct link between tobacco and health care costs. Just as there is a direct link between vehicle kilometres travelled and heart disease, obesity and type two diabetes. Of course that has nothing to do with the fuel used. It would apply to someone who drove everywhere in a ZEV instead of walking and cycling. Car use is also strongly linked to childhood asthmas, and other air pollution related diseases. As well as death and injury due to collisions (they should not be referred to as “accidents” as nearly all are avoidable). And if you look at smoking rates, they have declined, and smokers are now social pariahs. Just as SUV drivers are becoming.

She says

“More and more scientists are coming on record and saying that man-made global warming is probably not the cause of the global warming that we have been experiencing over the past few years.”

Which is almost worthy of George Bush. I hope the reporter is not guilty of misquoting. I challenge her to name one scientist who has said this in a peer reviewed journal. Yes there are climate changes due to natural causes like sun spots. But the long term correlation between anthropogenic CO2 and temperature increase – and the causative mechanism – are not easily dismissed except by those with an axe to grind.

She sneered at governments’ funding of public transit.

“Taxpayers have got to ask themselves: ‘Do we really need to have a $14-billion Cadillac transit plan when all the government is really expecting to see is maybe a five-per-cent increase in transit use?’ People here want to use their cars.

I might even agree with her on the $14bn “plan (which isn’t) but if she means an increase of 5 percentage points in mode share (not a 5% increase in ridership) I think that would be very good indeed. Because that is much better value for money out of our existing infrastructure. A 3m wide lane on a freeway moves about 2,500 people per hour. A 3 metre wide transit right of way can easily move 25,000 people per hour and more. In a place pushed for space, which is better value for your tax dollars? And cars need up to 5 or 6 available parking spaces – which mostly sit empty. And cars spend most of their time parked, not being used and depreciating. Not exactly a good use of resources.

But the idea that governments should cut gas taxes because people want to use their cars is bizarre. How do you pay for all that road construction and maintenance without gas taxes? Not to mention the ER capacity to deal with the victims of collisions.

And I have left the best until last – but it tops the Province’s story

gas taxes should be directed to encourage the car culture, not fund public transit

Please keep your comments to under 250 words

Written by Stephen Rees

May 15, 2008 at 12:42 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Is she for real? Gas taxes should not be going down, they should be going up and be directed totally to transit until we’ve made serious progress on correcting the imbalance of car usage to transit usage. Only then, when our culture has shifted towards transit considerably and single occupancy vehicles are few and far between should we reduce gas taxes, because at that time the only people driving (besides the ridiculously rich who will never take transit) will be the people who must drive for one reason or another. But until that happens, keep raising those gas taxes.

    Perhaps we are getting miffed for nothing. The world is full of stupid people and no one is really going to take what she says seriously, will they?


    May 15, 2008 at 1:09 pm

  2. Oh my god, I know! She’s out there!

    I also wrote a rebuttal to the story in her in the Province on my own blog.

    Paul Hillsdon

    May 15, 2008 at 1:10 pm

  3. gas taxes should be directed to encourage the car culture, not fund public transit

    I like the way this woman thinks. I want all of my tax dollars to go toward encouraging things that I like. I think you can see where I’m going with this. Yes: I want my tax dollars to pay for my beer.


    May 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

  4. What I find amusing is that as the price of gas goes up, the percent going to taxes goes down because most of the taxes are fixed per litre; only the GST is a percent tax. Indeed, in 2006, it was about 35% in Greater Vancouver. Now, it’s 30%. When gas hits $2 per litre, it will be less than 25%, even with the carbon tax.


    May 15, 2008 at 7:37 pm

  5. Somewhere I have video 1998-99 when gas dropped to something like 35c/l, which was a riduculous price given that taxes were about 28 c/l.. I think that prices in the valley did approach the tax level at the peakl of the “Arco” gas war

    Somewhere in all the media coverage recently was something about Hillary Clinton’s proposal to make the “Oil Companies’ pay the gas tax (pause to check google, yep, more or less)… who do ypu think would really end up paying the tax?

    hard to believe that Joe Clark lost the 1980 election because he wanted to incrrease the price of gas from 18 c/l to 22 c/l (the famous “18 c /imp gal ” tax)

    David Banks

    May 16, 2008 at 12:23 am

  6. “Taxpayers have got to ask themselves: ‘Do we really need to have a $14-billion Cadillac transit plan…….”

    I would call it an ‘Edsel’ of a transit plan rather than a ‘Cadillac’ plan.

    “People here want to use their cars.”

    People use their cars because for many, there is no viable transit alternative.

    “gas taxes should be directed to encourage the car culture, not fund public transit.”

    Isn’t it already? with $4.00 a litre gas coming sooner than later, the public will be soon asking, “Where’s the transit.”

    Question: Who is this woman and why is she getting so much media attention?

    Malcolm J.

    May 16, 2008 at 10:03 am

  7. If you look at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Web site, you will see that they get their information on global warming from the oil-industry-funded Friends of Science and the “National Post.” This debunked garbage gets such prominent play in the Canned Waste media because, in their mind, it offers “balance” by presenting the “other side” — let the readers decide.

    If you’re wondering whether or not this nonsense will be taken seriously, just wait and see how many letters to the editor will come out in support of it.


    May 17, 2008 at 1:51 pm

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