Ontario is extending a temporary tax cut intended to help drivers save money at gas pumps until next summer.
The legislation, if passed, would keep the tax break in place which cuts the price of both gas and fuel.
“The vast majority of people are struggling right now,” Premier Doug Ford said, speaking at a gas station in Etobicoke on Tuesday.
“They’re struggling with rising costs of gas and groceries, with high rents and mortgage costs, with just how expensive life is getting.”
The 5.7-cent cut, which first went into effect in July 2022, is being extended for a second time. It was initially expected to end in December of this year but will now remain in effect until June 30 of 2024. It will also maintain a 5.3-cents-per-litre reduction in the price of diesel fuel.
Ford first promised to lower gas prices by 10 cents per litre during the 2018 election campaign.
At the time, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party said that would be done by scrapping the province’s cap-and-trade system and shrinking the gas tax.
The government did end cap-and-trade soon after the 2018 election, meant to lower prices by 4.3 cents a litre, but that prompted the federal carbon tax backstop to kick in, negating those savings. Ford’s government tried fighting the levy in court, but lost.
Ford also called on the federal government to scrap its carbon tax Tuesday, saying it’s not fair that Justin Trudeau’s government has given a reprieve to some but not others.
The province estimates the gas tax breaks would save households an average of $260 over the entire course of the price reduction.
“That’s money that goes back into people’s pockets to help cover essential expenses because we know every dollar counts,” Ford said.
The government says without the tax cut, the tax rate on gas and diesel in Ontario would stand at 14.7 cents.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy was alongside Ford at the announcement.
On Friday, he told reporters: “The Bank of Canada’s rapid interest rate increases and high inflation are putting a pinch on the wallets of people right across the province.”
Bethlenfalvy said he will provide an update Thursday — when Ontario’s 2023 fall economic statement is set to be released — on the government’s plan to “get through this economic uncertainty while laying a strong fiscal foundation for future generations.”
The news conference comes a day after Ontario’s New Democrats said the province has given out 18 Minister’s Zoning Orders for developer projects to guests who attended the wedding of the premier’s daughter last summer.
The land-planning tool can be used to fast-track development in a given area and the Progressive Conservative government has been criticized in the past for how often it uses the mechanism.
Later Monday, Environmental Defence released thousands of pages of documents pertaining to the government’s decision to expand urban development boundaries — another controversial move Ford’s government has walked back.
Ford says he didn’t direct staff to include specific lands
Ford said Tuesday he did not instruct staff to include specific developer-owned lands in expansions of urban boundaries that would have allowed building in those areas.
The government announced last week that it was reversing course on urban boundary expansions that were introduced last year, after the new housing minister said there was too much involvement in the process by the former minister’s office.
One of the emails from the housing minister’s chief of staff at the time suggest the premier’s office wanted to see maps of land in Nobleton, Ont., “to make sure it’s captured.”
The subject line of the emails suggest the land was partly owned by the company founded by Shakir Rehmatullah, a friend of Ford’s who attended the premier’s daughter’s wedding, and who was also set to benefit from the now-reversed changes to the Greenbelt.
When asked Tuesday about the emails, Ford said he did not direct staff to take any actions on that land.
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