Gas tax money doesn’t cover startups, council hears
By Chad Ingram
Published Oct. 31, 2017
The province’s gas tax program provides municipalities with money for transit, but does not fund start-ups or pilot projects.
Haliburton County councillors got a crash course in the program’s details from county planner Charsley White during an Oct. 25 meeting.
White had requested details on the program from the province, and that the provincial government send a representative to the county to give a presentation and answer questions.
The province sent a slideshow with details, which White presented to councillors.
The Ontario Dedicated Gas Tax Funds for Public Transportation Program began in 2004, intended as an ongoing source of funding for Ontario municipalities to put toward transit. In 2013, legislation was passed to make funding of two cents per litre permanently dedicated to the program.
Earlier this year, the province passed legislation to increase that amount to four cents per litre by the 2021/22 fiscal year.
Since it began, the program has allotted $3.8 billion in transportation funding to Ontario municipalities, including nearly $335 million for the 2016/fiscal year.
Funds can be used for both capital and operational expenses. In order to qualify, municipalities must indicate a commitment to annual financial support of a transportation system. The funds a municipality receives from the province are not to exceed 75 per cent of a municipality’s own spending on transportation.
The amount of gas tax funding municipalities receive is based on a formula which is 70 per cent based on ridership and 30 per cent based on an area’s population.
While pilot projects and start-ups are not eligible for funding, if a municipality indicates it is creating a new, permanent transportation service, that service may be eligible for funding.
If Rural Transportation Options Haliburton County, a committee that is working on a community transportation pilot project came up with a proposal for a transportation system, for example, it is possible that transportation system may be eligible for gas tax funding.
Under the program, funds are transferred to municipalities to be held in a dedicated account, and municipalities must report regularly to the Ministry of Transportation.
Minden Hills Mayor and County Warden Brent Devolin expressed skepticism over the program, saying it was yet another instance of provincial programming that is designed with cities in mind.
“This is a perfect example of urban versus rural policy roll-out,” Devolin said, adding the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus, which represents 13 municipalities in the eastern part of the province, has asked the province for more equal distribution of the gas tax increase across Ontario.
“It certainly offers no significant solutions,” Devolin said, adding he wasn’t surprised a representative from the ministry didn’t bother making the trip to the county.