For a nation whose drivers are being gouged at the pump – as parties of the left, right and centre assure us they are – Canadians sure love burning fuel.
Look at the cars we buy: Four of the five best-selling automobiles in Canada last year were gas-guzzling pickups. Sales of luxury SUVs surged in 2017, too, while sales of fuel-efficient subcompact cars plummeted.
Most drivers of Silverados and Land Rovers are not going off-road or hauling lumber. In their hundreds of thousands, these Canadians are willing to pay more when they gas up in order to feel like the king of the road en route to their kids’ soccer practices.
Of course, you would never guess at these profligate driving habits to hear Ontario’s party leaders on the stump. During this spring’s election campaign, Doug Ford, Andrea Horwath and to a lesser extent Kathleen Wynne have treated the province’s drivers as a kind of abused minority.
Mr. Ford has led the charge, not only ditching the PC Party’s carbon-tax plan and promising to scrap the province’s cap-and-trade regime, but also vowing to knock more than five cents per litre off the Ontario fuel tax.
The NDP hasn’t been much better. Ms. Horwath recently promised to fight “gouging” by gas stations ahead of long weekends (read: responding to supply and demand) and placed her party four-square against road tolls, because they are a “flat tax” that hurts poor drivers. (Never mind that rebates could make tolls as progressive as you like.)
Ms. Wynne has not indulged in driver-pandering during this writ period, but her government did more than its share, most damagingly when it kiboshed Toronto Mayor John Tory’s attempt to toll some of the city’s highways.
Drivers shouldn’t be shamed for using a means of transportation that public policy has encouraged for generations, but nor should they be coddled. Auto ownership has costs – in traffic congestion, air pollution, global warming and urban sprawl – that drivers do not pay, or do not fully pay.
Responsible politicians should be making drivers pay more of those costs, not fewer of them – especially when Canadians keep driving so many pickups off the lot.