A federal election looms large in a time of economic uncertainty, and a trucking-related issue has emerged as a key election hot point.
Let’s review what each of front-running parties have promised to do in regards to fuel taxes, if elected on Oct. 14. The Liberals have laid out their plans for a carbon tax as part of their Green Shift plan. The plan will slap seven cents per litre onto the cost of diesel by the fourth year, increasing a trucker’s operating cost by about $1,700 per year, according to the party’s own figures.
On the other hand, incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised a Conservative government would cut the federal excise tax on diesel in half – from four cents per litre to two – over the same four-year period.
When viewed in tandem, these contrasting policies represent a nine cent per litre swing in diesel taxes.
Put in real terms, if you average 40 litres/100 km (7 mpg) and run 160,000 km per year (100,000 miles – I know, most of you work harder than that) then you’re consuming about 64,000 litres of diesel per year. A nine cent per litre fuel tax differential amounts to $5,760 – that’s money that goes straight in your pocket under the Conservative plan and up in smoke under Green Shift. If you operate a fleet of trucks, extrapolate that figure across your entire fleet and the number is even more staggering.
Now, in fairness, the Liberals claim their Green Shift plan is “revenue-neutral,” meaning 100% of the carbon tax will be returned in tax breaks and ‘green’ incentives.
But truckers stand to be net losers under the deal, since they have no choice but to consume diesel and cannot greatly alter their consumption habits.
It should also be noted that Liberal leader Stephane Dion recently modified his Green Shift plan to make it more trucker-friendly.
He said a fund of $250 million will be set aside over four years, to help offset the cost of adopting environmentally-friendly technologies such as APUs, trailer skirts and fuel-efficient tires. But the funds will be spread across all transport modes – and the fisheries industry, to boot – so you figure it out, how much of this moolah will actually trickle down to the owner/operator?
Maybe, as Lou would contend, I’m over-simplifying the matter. But I see it, quite simply, as two contradicting policies: one that would save truckers a significant amount of money and another that would cost them dearly.
Green Shift would require truckers, already under enormous strains in a volatile industry and shaky economy, to shoulder an unfair portion of the load in the Liberals’ quest to financially punish polluters.
It’s a misguided policy, considering most truckers are already employing any and all fuel-saving tactics and devices that are currently feasible.
In a telling gesture, Dalton McGuinty, the Liberal premier of Ontario recently refused to endorse the federal Liberal party.
Instead, he urged voters to “Vote Ontario.” I’d like to paraphrase McGuinty, and urge truckers to “Vote trucking.”