Bradley Takes McGuinty to Task on Licence and Vehicle Fee Hikes
TORONTO — Yesterday's announcement from the Ontario provincial government regarding increases in driver and vehicle licence fees has ruffled more than a few feathers, according to an email sent to Dalton McGuinty from David Bradley of the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA).
Today's Trucking obtained a copy of the letter:
Re: Driver and Vehicle Licence Fee Increases
Since the announcement yesterday that your government is increasing driver and vehicle licence fees, I have been besieged by calls and emails from members upset over the fact that the commercial transportation sector is being singled out amongst all Ontario industrial sectors for additional taxation.
As you are fully aware, the Ontario economy is still shaky. The trucking industry, which is one of the best leading indicators of economic activity there is, continues to see very slow growth. After seeing its balance sheets ravaged in recent years, the industry is just getting back on its feet.
However, rate increases, where they have been attained, have been very modest, usually in a range around two percent. Moreover, much of that additional revenue is being quickly absorbed by increased fuel, compliance, and new EPA-mandated equipment costs. The scope and magnitude of the fee increases announced yesterday is a very bitter pill to swallow.
Adding to my members’ concern is the way the government has tried to pass the increases off as being “modest and gradual” and that they will be used “to ensure provincial roads and bridges remain safe and in good repair for future generations.” Was any of this actually so, perhaps we could be more accepting of the announcement. The trucking industry is fully aware of the fiscal challenges the government faces and it has always been prepared to pay its fair share.
But, the rhetoric does not match the reality when it comes to the licence fee increases:
- The increases are NOT modest. For example, the increases in the heavy commercial vehicle validation fees are on the order of 70 per cent -- a huge escalation by any measure;
- The increases are NOT gradual. Unlike many of the other sectors being affected by increases over three or four years, the entire 70 per cent increase for the commercial vehicle sector takes place over just one-year, starting later this year. The table showing a five year period is very misleading;
- It is NOT ensured that the additional monies will go into the highway and bridge system. The revenues generated from these levies have not (at least up until now) been dedicated for that purpose. Instead they go into general revenues to be spent as the government deems fit.
I have been around long enough to know that once an announcement like this is made, the chances of a government rolling back such increases are nil. Consequently, I call upon your sense of fairness and reasonableness to at least ensure the increases are introduced in a way that is consistent with the rhetoric. In other words, that they are in fact “modest and gradual” and “used to ensure provincial roads and highways remain safe and in good repair.”
The attached table provides our suggestions for accomplishing this. It is also necessary that the additional funds raised are in fact dedicated to the provincial highway management system and not simply allocated to general revenue.
(If you want to voice your concern, contact the Premier directy.)