Ontario budget includes another billion for highways

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QUEEN’S PARK, Ont. — In her first provincial budget, Ontario finance minister Janet Ecker unleashed very few surprises do to earlier leaks to the media.

For the trucking industry, there were a few measures to take account of, mind you. For starters, more than $1 billion has been allocated to provincial highways for the current fiscal year. Another $255 million has been set aside purely for use on northern highways (including federal cost-sharing of $9 million) and $104 million has been allocated to municipal roads.

Bio-diesel fuel will now be exempt from the 14.3 cents per litre provincial fuel tax, a measure recommended by the Ontario Select Committee on Alternative Fuels.

Biodiesel is a mixture of diesel fuel with either vegetable oils (such as soybean oil) or animal fat. Its use has raised concerns in the U.S. and Europe regarding engine performance and reliability. A 2001 Commission for the European Communities report also raised questions regarding the ability of biodiesel to reduce GHG emissions from trucks in comparison to trucks using ultra-low sulphur diesel and the incoming ultra-low emission engines.

OTA has already raised these issues with the province before the Ontario Select Committee on Alternative Fuels, and will be requesting that the province work with the industry to ensure biodiesel is a practical solution to traditional fuels.

Corporate Income Tax decreases announced in previous budgets will go ahead, but are expected to take a little longer than initially thought.

According to the Ontario Trucking Association, this budget is designed to set the table for the next one, which will be a pre-election budget. In the budget speech, Ecker announced the next budget will be tabled before the end of this fiscal year, actually Mar. 31, 2003. She indicated she will consider eliminating the capital tax and repealing the personal income surtax.

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