The Yukon Party continued to press the government on Tuesday on what it plans to do as fuel energy prices soar.
“As Yukoners struggle under the weight of soaring fuel prices, the Official Opposition Yukon Party urges the Liberal government to follow the lead of other jurisdictions and provide temporary territorial fuel tax relief. fuel,” party leader Currie Dixon said during question period. He said the same thing in a press release.
The move would lower prices at the pump and help Yukoners as inflation continues to rise at a rapid pace, he said.
“Alberta just announced it was suspending collection of its fuel tax,” Dixon noted.
“The Saskatchewan NDP is calling for something similar in Saskatchewan, and the Liberal government in Newfoundland says it is reviewing its fuel tax ahead of its budget. There’s no reason the Yukon Liberal government can’t do the same here.
The 2022-2023 territorial budget tabled last Thursday forecasts a surplus of $39.5 million, the party said. There would still be a surplus if the fuel tax was scrapped, the party said.
The government estimates it will collect $9.66 million in fuel taxes in the next fiscal year.
“The Liberal budget does nothing to address the territory’s growing inflation and affordability crisis,” Dixon said.
“The reality is that many Yukoners are now struggling to afford their daily necessities, and there is no relief in sight.
A liter of regular gasoline sells for $1.79 at most local outlets, a cost that is expected to rise significantly over the next few days and weeks.
“(Monday), when we asked the government if it was considering any measures to help Yukoners deal with rising prices at the pump, and despite the wide array of policy tools available to the Yukon government to influence on fuel prices, the minister’s response was: ‘Don’t worry, the Our Clean Future strategy is helping us move away from fossil fuels,’ Dixon said during Tuesday’s question period.
“That, of course, is cold comfort to Yukoners struggling to fill up this week or to businesses whose fuel costs the most.”
Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai replied: “Just to correct the record, (Monday) what we said is that these are measures. We didn’t say, ‘Don’t worry.’
“Our budget for 2022-23 invests first in housing supply. Again, universal child care–we’re a leader in the country in providing–others might laugh at this, but when you have two kids and you’re paying $900 per child for child care, before this deal, my constituents certainly don’t think it’s a laughing matter,” Pillai said.
“We had paid sick leave in place and through our agreement and collaboration with the NDP, we are now looking at a territory-wide dental plan. We think all of these things will make life more affordable for Yukoners.
Dixon reminded Pillai that his question was about fuel prices.
“It’s one of the biggest problems in the country right now, and it’s clearly not even being considered in the budget. We’re not even a week away from the legislative session, and this budget is already outdated and out of touch with the real challenges facing Yukoners,” said the leader of the Yukon Party.
“Will the Liberal government here in the Yukon consider suspending fuel tax collection to help Yukoners with the staggering cost of fuel?
In response, Pillai said Yukoners should realize that until Monday, the territory had the lowest gas tax in the country at just over 6%.
“Yes, there was an announcement from the Alberta government, and it was to eliminate the gasoline tax in Alberta. I think they are in a favorable position. We’ve just seen their budget revenue almost double with oil inflation, and they also have a government that’s under a lot of pressure, and there could be decisions made for political reasons in the current circumstances.
The Yukon government will continue to “monitor and adapt,” Pillaid said.
“We think – and the economists I’ve contacted over the past few days who are really supportive of political thinking in all areas, think there are moves this week that are more politically driven boutique items, rather than good political decisions, and that is why we will continue to monitor the situation,” the minister said.
Dixon fired back with “the Prime Minister likes to point out that the surplus provides the flexibility to respond to emerging issues.
“Well, it’s definitely an emerging issue that affects just about every Yukoner. The government could waive the fuel tax for the year and make life that much more affordable for Yukoners.
Premier Sandy Silver said he finds it “interesting that the Yukon Party has finally woke up to inflation. We’ve seen rates that we’ve been concerned about since August, with no questions from the opposition about inflation, and now it looks like political expediency has finally got them to a place where they’re actually concerned about this, so this is interesting.
Per liter of gasoline, the tax is 6.2 cents in the Yukon, 27 cents in British Columbia and 13 cents in Alberta before it was canceled, Silver said.
“When members opposite laugh at the initiatives in this budget — keeping those prices low for Yukoners — it’s horrible. The investment in early childhood care and learning is huge to keep the price low for Yukoners for the quality of life they enjoy here,” the Premier added.
“The modernization programs that are in this budget are not just things for political reasons over the last month or two weeks now that these people are back to work; it was important to us for five years of budgeting.