All of gas taxes will go toward transit:Tory
TORONTO - Every cent of Ontario's gas tax, which adds almost 15 cents per litre to the price at the pumps, would go toward funding roads and public transit if the Conservatives win the provincial election in October, leader John Tory said Monday.
The province will collect about $3.1 billion this fiscal year from gas and fuel taxes, but the budget shows only $1.97 billion is earmarked for the Transportation Ministry, Tory told a news conference.
Taxpayers have been told the gas tax would fund road work and transit, and that's how every penny of the $3 billion should be spent, he said.
"Their money is going into a black hole, along with many other taxes, which is being used in many cases not to fund roads, not to fund transit, but instead to fund things like misleading advertising campaigns, logo changes and other kinds of wasteful expenditures,'' Tory said.
A Conservative government would spend all 14.7 cents per litre on roads and transit upgrades, although it would take five years to make that happen, Tory said.
Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield disputed Tory's numbers and said the government is already going a step farther than the Conservative plan.
She said another page of the provincial budget shows the government is set to spend more than $2.7 billion on highway and transportation infrastructure, on top of some additional resources from her ministry's budget.
The province's transportation system would suffer if it was funded by the gas tax alone, she said. "The gas tax is not going to deal with gridlock, it's not enough money,'' Cansfield said.
"Obviously we put more into transportation -- significantly -- than we're putting in for transportation (through the gas tax).''
Currently, the money goes into the government's general revenue pool, which makes it impossible to determine how the money is spent, said Tory, who would rather see the money go into a separate fund.
"Either it's in a designated account or overseen by a group of trustees,'' he suggested.
"They can look the public in the eye in this and other areas . . . and say every penny of that money that was taken in was spent on what it was intended to be spent on.''
Tory's campaign platform calls for $300 million to improve roads in rural and northern Ontario, and some vague promises to expand GO Transit service and rapid-transit service.
He couldn't answer whether the increased spending from the gas tax would be phased in evenly over five years, or how it would be split between road and transit upgrades.
New Democrat critic Paul Ferreira said he would want an audit to be sure he could trust the Liberal numbers, and called Tory's promises uninspiring.
"The promise is big but details are either non-existent or scant few,'' he said.
"We lived through this four years ago with Mr. McGuinty, who over-promised and under-delivered.''
Tory also wouldn't commit to whether he would scrap the Liberals' $17.5-billion transit strategy as premier or follow through with it; he said he wants to hear back from the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority on how it would spend the money before making that decision.
But the fact that funding for the 12-year plan doesn't start rolling in until 2011 indicates it's more an election promise than a plan, Tory said.