Dear Mr. Quinn,
I am so overwhelmed by many of the statements in your op-ed that appeared in Saturday’s Globe and Mail titled “Gas-tax foes are blowing hot air” (http://tinyurl.com/6799aww) that at I hardly know where to begin. To keep this from snowballing into a 10,000 word essay, I’ll try to limit myself to the most salient points.
It seems that you feel taxpayers should have little or no say in regards to the grand schemes proposed by social engineers visions. That you make all kinds of unsubstantiated and unsupportable claims to support your position not only does a disservice to both commuters and the rest of the public, it is an affront to all the hard-working people in this province to whom public transportation is not now, nor ever will be, an option.
You claim that private auto use is heavily subsidized, but offer no numbers to back up your point. You mention a 15-cents-a-litre tax on gasoline as only partially off-setting the complete cost of operating the public highway system, when in fact the total amount of taxes on gasoline in the lower mainland is 41 cents per litre. You also conveniently overlook the fact that this must be paid by private motor vehicle drivers with taxed income, whereas commercial vehicle operators pay their expenses with pre-tax dollars. Meanwhile, bicyclists continue to get a free-ride.
Nevertheless, you completely fail to mention either the total cost of operating the public highway system, nor mention the economic benefit of what that system delivers from the transportation of people and goods to the provision of safety and emergency services and, yes, public transportation. Which brings me to the main point of my response to your illogical diatribe: With so many taxes, subsidies, grants and other transfers of wealth between individuals, businesses and governments, nobody can say with any certainty what anything costs anymore. For a central-planner such as yourself, this is very convenient as it allows you to make the kinds of absurd assertions found in your writing. For society, however, this kind of economic obfuscation leads to the kinds of grand infrastructure projects that consume interest and maintenance costs for generations – costs the majority must pay to benefit the few.
In your opinion, subsidies for things you agree with are OK, but subsidies for things you agree with are not OK. In your utopia, only you would get to decide who pays for whatever. That’s a nice dream if you can sell the idea. The reality of the situation, however, is that only a small percentage of the public can benefit from these massive transportation schemes as commercial shippers, soccer moms, contractors, shippers and others will always need a roads and cars to go about their lives in a timely manner. Too bad you don’t place an economic value on the convenience, comfort and accessibility of private vehicles.
Here’s a radical idea: How about letting users pay the full, complete and actual cost of what they consume? That way, before someone digs into their pocket to purchase any good or service, based on their individual needs, priorities and ability to pay. This would allow society to ditch the expensive overhead of central planners salaries , benefits and office expenses, not to mention the endless conferences they jet across the world to attend. Of course, this type of individual liberty is anathema to “they who know better than the rest of us” about how we should all be living. Well, too bad for you, as we are in the majority and, as all true democracies recognize, the majority rules.
In conclusion, it must be nice to have the comfort and security of a tax-payer subsidized income in beautiful downtown Vancouver. I suspect you not only fail to see the irony of the situation, I’m quite certain you fail to perceive how your circumstances bias you point of view. My recommendation, before you spend more subsidized time contriving ways of spending taxpayer’s dollars, that you take a position in the private sector where the value of your work is measure by what people are willing to pay for it.