Trying to understand outrage at ONDP’s 1% HST reduction in gasoline

This portion of the ONDP platform has probably received the most discussion, usually vacuous outrage, especially by self-styled environmentalists. So, I’ve been trying to figure out what is so egregious about the proposal to claw back 1% of HST from the oil companies who at last check were doing quite well and offer relief to the consumer that has been hit with a regressive tax designed pay for corporate giveaways by placing the burden on middle and working class consumers.

First thing I noticed was that the initiative is part of the ONDP’s making life more affordable platform. From ONDP “Plan for affordable change”:

Experts tell us that the real problem in Ontario’s economy isn’t corporate debt, or even government debt – it’shousehold debt. If we want Ontario to succeed we need Ontario’s people to do well.

Next, I reflected on how this might alter  consumptive behaviour. I assume the reason environmentalists are outraged has to do with the fear that this will increase our consumption and dependency on fossil fuels.

First, given that public transit and a bicycle infrastructure is not close to what it should be, that living in Toronto is more and more unaffordable, many ordinary and working poor folks will need, at least in the foreseeable term, to drive to work to survive. For these folk, the HST is disproportionately unfair.

Second, and to me this is central, unlike many other goods and services gasoline is an essential item that people will buy regardless of cost BUT I believe consumption also remains at a constant rate regardless of cost. I have never noticed my driving habits to change as price of gasoline fluctuates. I drive where I need to go and I fill up when I need to.

Thus I don’t see how consumer consumption will increase substantially by offering an 8 cent or so reduction in prices. Unfortunately, those who need to drive to work will continue to pay, even when they’re gouged, to get to work.

Ideally, we would have excellent affordable  green public transit systems, safe and extensive bicycle infrastructures, promotion and education about green alternatives for moving people, but until then, and I am reminded the OLP wants to run 400 diesel trains through Toronto neighbourhoods, countless ordinary and poor folk will rely on gasoline to get to work.

Am I way off? Any thoughts for or against?

Perhaps in a future post we could look at the ONDP Green Choices platform…

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Posted on September 23, 2011, in ONDP, Ontario Election 2011. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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