| Apr 02, 2009

Back to HomeEditorial - April 2, 2009Why gas tax money is not free moneyEditorial  by Jeff Green

I have written before about the federal gas tax money that has been building up at Frontenac County for several years, and which is now being spent on a piecemeal basis on what are often called “capacity-building projects”.

This year $90,000 from the fund was set aside “on a contract basis” for the county to proceed with “the development of corresponding plans and policies to facilitate the successful implementation of the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan”.

Last week, this translated into the creation of a full-time staff position: a sustainability planner.

It is not certain, but it is certainly likely, that this position will be funded every year by using part of the $1 million the county will be receiving as a federal gas tax rebate.

I have taken the position in the past that municipalities across Canada fought for this money on the grounds that the federal government collects taxes from drivers, but it is municipalities who are left with the cost of maintaining roads and bridges.

After many years, the federal government agreed to pass some of that money along, and through an agreement with the Province of Ontario and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the money comes to the Frontenac Townships individually, and to Frontenac County as a whole.

Frontenac County, which does not have roads or bridges, is looking at using this money in some very creative ways.

It might indeed be used to do some things that would not be able to be done otherwise - to fund innovative projects that will be of long-term benefit to all of us. These will be projects that are beyond the normal nuts and bolts scope of township councils, and would never be funded through municipal taxation, so it is either gas tax money or nothing.

But, the projects that the Frontenac townships would have used the county gas tax money for, had it been passed over to them, are projects they will have to do anyway. For instance, Central Frontenac will build a salt dome; South Frontenac will fix the Loughborough Bridge; North Frontenac will build a fire hall at Ompah and community hall at Plevna at some point.

If some of the money for these projects does not come from county gas tax funds, it will all come from municipal tax dollars.

So, that sustainability planner position is not really being paid for out of free money from the government of Canada; it's coming from municipal tax dollars, and that means it is coming directly out of our pockets.

I confess I don't know what sustainability planning is, but let's hope it is something good and important for our future. 

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