The spike in oil prices has many Edmontonians clutching their wallets. On March 7, 2022, oil prices reached an unprecedented high of $1.75 per litre, forcing Alberta’s premiere into action. To the cheers of many,Jason Kenney has called for a pause on the collection of fuel taxes of 13 cents per litre. The government’s goodwill gesture is a well-needed relief for the vulnerable population. However, the premiere and many optimistic Albertans will soon realize that there may not be a clear end to the current high gas prices.
It is hard to determine the monetary value of the 13 cents per litre saved by Albertans visiting the gas pump. However, with current gas prices, a family could incur an additional $50 per month on gas-related expenses. Consequently, even if the actual value is unknown, any money saved will help recoup a portion of the additional expenses the current gas prices created.
Though there are immediate benefits to pausing the gas tax, one must never overlook the purpose for which this tax was instituted: provincial infrastructural development. Consequently, prolonged disruption of this flow of income can have a negative impact on community development projects.
Currently, funds collected from the Canada Community-Building Fund (formerly the Gas Tax Fund) support strategic infrastructure investments. In 2021, $2.2 billion was allocated to over 3,600 communities and funded projects like the renewable energy project at Airdrie’s Genesis Place Recreation Centre in Calgary and the wastewater treatment upgrade in Lake County, BC.
Simply put, municipalities use gas taxes on projects that help grow communities. Therefore, it is in Alberta’s best interest not to arbitrarily prolong the pause on collecting this tax as it risks sabotaging the province’s planned future infrastructural development.
Interestingly, on its website, the Government of Alberta notes that the “CCBF provides predictable, long-term, stable funding for Canadian municipalities to help build and revitalize public infrastructure while creating jobs and long-term prosperity.” Therefore, a prolonged pause in collecting this tax could contribute to a reality where future funding is unstable and unpredictable, employment opportunities are reduced, and growth is impeded.
When weighing the decision to pause the gas tax collection, Albertans should first determine what matters most to them: a present where small savings can be realized or a future where the sacrifice of the past contributes to the creation of responsive communities and an overall higher quality of life.
The savings of the present versus the security of the future may seem like an easy choice when faced with this current issue. However, communities tend to flourish when they can look ahead and plan accordingly — a critical piece of information Albertans should consider in the long term.