National: Gas tax revenue would be well spent locally: MPP

The Liberals could do a lot to win favour of small-town Ontario by pushing along a bill to give gas tax money to rural municipalities, MPP Laurie Scott says.

The private members bill, introduced by Renfrew-area MPP John Yakabuski, specifies that provincial gas tax money should be given to rural municipalities to help maintain roads and bridges. Currently, that money only goes to fund public transit systems, which Scott says demonstrates how little rural Ontario is considered by the governing Liberals.

“Our public transit is our roads and our bridges,” she said in an interview.
“We pretty much have to drive everywhere.”

The bill has been introduced multiple times by Yakabuski since he was first elected in 2003, but for the first time ever it has passed second reading. With support of some NDP members and the PCs in the legislature, the Gasoline Tax Fairness for All bill passed March 7. But just because it passes second reading doesn’t mean it’s destined to be law.

“If they were serious, [the Liberals] would call it before committee … and bring it back for third reading,” Scott said.

It’s entirely up to the governing party whether bills move through this process. So far, she’s heard nothing more about it. Scott said the bill represents equality between ridings.

“It’s a question of fairness that our small communities get their share of the taxes,” she said.
The MPP also criticized Premier Kathleen Wynne for taking on too much. Wynne took on the role of agriculture minister at the same time as assuming the post of premier when she won the leadership race at the beginning of 2013.

“You can’t be everywhere and you’re going to miss events because you’ve got to be premier also,” Scott said.

In general, the MPP said she finds the Liberals don’t consult with rural ridings enough and she doesn’t think Wynne’s move changes that. The PC party recently put out a policy document called Paths to Prosperity, specifically tailored to rural Ontario.

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