Why truckers should oppose Liberal Green Shift plan

In Lou’s most recent blog entry as well as his column in the upcoming issue, he urges us not to dismiss the idea of a carbon tax such as the Green Shift policy touted by the federal Liberals. While it’s never advisable to call out your boss, Lou and I do occasionally have philosophical differences and this one is a biggie.
Call it what you want, ‘green plan’, ‘carbon tax’….whatever, the bottom line is that the Green Shift plan is nothing more than an thinly-veiled fuel tax that will force the trucking industry to shoulder an unfair portion of the load as the Liberals aim to financially punish polluters. Furthermore, the plan is fundamentally wrong, as it targets an industry that a) is already doing everything it can to reduce its fuel consumption, including: slowing down, reducing idling and using nearly smog-free engines; and b) drives this nation’s economy and in doing so, has no alternative but to consume fossil fuels in the process.
I don’t oppose a carbon tax per se. Show me one that reduces emissions without hampering the economy and I’ll consider it with an open mind. What I do oppose is a flawed PR-driven policy (and likely a failed election strategy) like Green Shift, that despite being ‘revenue-neutral’ will cost the trucking industry billions of dollars while driving up the costs of everything that travels by truck. It will also hurt small-time truckers who are already under enormous strain due to unprecedented fuel prices and a shaky economy. How can anyone within the trucking industry support such a plan?
Now that Stephen Harper has promised to slash the federal excise tax on diesel in half (from four cents per litre to two) if re-elected, I’ve crunched a few numbers that may help portray why the Liberal and Conservative policies are, in fact, “polar opposites.”
Green Shift: By Year 4 it will add 7 cents per litre to the cost of diesel. By the Liberals’ own admission, it will cost the average trucker an extra $1,700 per year. (My math suggest it’ll be more than $4,000, for what it’s worth).
Harper’s tax cut: By Year 4, it will reduce the federal excise tax on diesel from four cents per litre to two.
So by the fourth year, there is a 9 cent/litre swing between policies. Now let’s assume, using very conservative numbers, that you average 40L/100km (7 mpg) and travel 160,000 km (100,000 miles) per year. (I know, most of you work harder than that). In that case, you consume 64,000 litres of diesel per year. Assuming a 9 cent/litre difference between what the Conservatives are promising and what Green Shift will include, you’re looking at a $5,760 differential per truck, per year. That’s $5,760 that will either go into your pocket, under a Harper government, or up in smoke, under Green Shift.
(Yes, the Liberals now promise to invest all the money collected through Green Shift back into green initiatives and tax cuts, but how much do you expect to see as a fleet owner or owner/operator?)
The number is staggering, even more so if you’re a fleet. Extrapolate that number over 100 trucks…or 200…or 900. Bison Transport spends over $6.5 million per month on diesel – what will the difference amount to for them?
As I write in this month’s column, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty recently refused to endorse the federal Liberals, instead urging Ontarians to “Vote Ontario.” I would like to paraphrase McGuinty, and urge truckers to “Vote Trucking.” But whatever you decide, just be sure to get out there and vote!

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • After re-reading your blogg several times I’m having trouble adding anything of value. You said it perfectly. Bravo!

  • A few questions:
    1. Who will administer these taxes?
    2. Will the railways have to pay there share? Will the shiplines?
    3. Will the large trucking companies from the U.S. have to pay as well?
    4. The cost of gas today is $1.36/ litre. a percentage of that is taxes, how can any level of government ask me to pay more in taxes when the fuel taxes that are collected and originally earmarked for the maintenance of the roads are not spent as intended?
    The emissions testing that is conducted on vehicles was intended to decrease harmfull emissions into the atmosphere. Yet not all vehicles, such as train engines, ships, motorbikes, farm equipment, etc. are required to meet the same standards, nor are they actively enforced on and off the roadways.
    To me, at worst, this is just another attempted money grab, and at best, another poorly thought out attempt to improve the air we breathe.