Doug Ford’s pledge to abolish the HST would be a major economic boost in Ontario and could eliminate the province’s environmental debt.
This August, Doug Ford met with the International Monetary Fund and budget advisory council to discuss Ontario’s fiscal position. It should have been an opportunity to reset Ontario’s fiscal course. Instead, Ford was caught crowing that his government would be “crown jewel” and “draw on the efficiencies of central government” to help erase the province’s projected $15 billion deficit in 2019-20.
Instead of creating “efficiencies,” Ford’s government is doubling down on existing financial mismanagement and that has huge implications for Ontario’s environment.
Ford also says he wants to end the HST rebate for electric vehicles, which is aimed at helping make zero-emission technology more accessible in the province. At present, 80% of purchasers of electric vehicles pay no sales tax.
That’s the equivalent of paying no sales tax on the $10,000 down payment or the $20,000 electric vehicle tax credit that puts a price on a zero-emission vehicle. There are also rebates for purchasing an electric vehicle charger, electric vehicle batteries and repair and maintenance costs.
A report commissioned by the Sustainability Foundation found that eliminating these rebates would cost the electric vehicle market at least $200 million annually. One million of today’s electric vehicles would have to be put off until the rebate program is restored, the report also found.
The lack of rebates for electric vehicles is particularly problematic in Ontario, which has a high proportion of government-owned electric vehicle charging stations for those who live in Ontario. That means there are more cars on the road than people able to use them.
Electric vehicles need to be subsidized to make a dent in climate change emissions. If Ford or the Ontario government is serious about reducing climate change, that means spending funds to save the planet.
Environment Minister Rod Phillips says this may be possible: “It’s entirely within our reach to get to balance next year without having to take a broad, across-the-board tax that no one would like.”
Ontario should fulfill its environmental commitments and take a broad, across-the-board tax that it would be easy to cut — rebates for the purchase and sale of electric vehicles.
Then, the Ford government can claim credit for saving the planet while cutting taxes for all Ontarians.