Four months after an initial call to suspend the territorial fuel tax in the face of spiralling inflation, the Yukon Party is once again asking the Liberal government to stop collecting the fuel tax until inflation eases.
Tuesday’s renewed call comes as data from other jurisdictions show prices at the pump are lower in areas where the collection of the provincial fuel tax has been suspended.
The Yukon Party pointed out that Trevor Tombe, a University of Calgary economist and former member of the territorial Liberals’ Financial Advisory Panel, has shown that the Alberta government’s suspension of its fuel tax has led to significant savings for the consumer.
Tombe told the Calgary Sun that about 10 cents out of the total 13-cents-a-litre tax saving is being passed on to consumers.
“By suspending the tax in early March, the Liberals could have saved Yukoners hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars,” the Yukon Party said.
“Instead, the minister of Economic Development (Ranj Pillai) called the idea a ‘boutique policy’, and the premier (Sandy Silver) dismissed this suggested tax relief as ‘parlour tricks’.
“Now months later, as Yukoners are being buried by inflation, the premier and his team continue to ignore this issue,” said the official Opposition.
The common price for a litre of regular gas in Whitehorse has dropped to $1.85 after having hovered above $2.20 earlier this summer. The territorial tax is about six cents per litre.
“Yukoners are growing frustrated with the price at the pump as we enter August,” said Kluane MLA Wade Istchenko.
“If the premier had actually listened and suspended the territorial fuel tax as suggested in March, Yukoners would be better positioned to ride out this period of inflation.
“Instead, like they did in the spring, the Liberals are dismissive of the idea, and it is Yukoners who are again paying the true cost of this government’s inaction.”
Cabinet communications staff, however, called cutting the fuel tax “a short-sighted policy in response to inflation.
“We are seeing this play out in Alberta, where Premier Jason Kenney is learning the price of interfering,” the staff said in an email to the Star.
“While that province suspended the fuel tax in April, it benefited large oil and gas corporations ahead of Albertans at the pumps.
“Just recently, Premier Jason Kenney released a statement noting he will be asking the Competition Bureau of Canada to investigate potential gasoline price fixing in Alberta,” the cabinet staff pointed out.
“… ‘it now appears Albertans are no longer benefiting from the tax cut,’ Kenney said,” the email noted.
“Fuel prices are quite volatile, but we are encouraged to see them drop in recent weeks,” the cabinet statement added.
To help address inflation, it recalled, the government introduced a $150 rebate on electrical bills for all residential and commercial customers in the Yukon.
“This is helping people on fixed incomes as well as those in rural communities, and is yet another step we are taking to put more money in people’s pockets,” the statement said.
The government also referenced raising the minimum wage to $15.70 hourly in April, doubling the medical travel subsidy to $150 daily in January 2021, and continuing to “make historic investments to support the Yukon’s first-ever universal, affordable childcare program.
“This program saves families up to $700 per month, per child for licensed childcare programs. These programs have lowered the living wage by over $2.50/hour, as recently noted by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.”
With investments in housing, renewable energy and health care, the cabinet staff said, “we are making progress in closing the gap between the minimum wage and the living wage.
“We will continue to take a multi-faceted approach to making life more affordable for Yukoners.”