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While the price of fuel has been steadily increasing over the past several months, the recent jump above 2.00 dollars a litre for regular gasoline was crushing for many Yukoners. The surging price of gas and diesel is having a real impact on the life of just about every single Yukoner. Fuel prices have obvious direct impacts on Yukoners’ everyday cost of living, as the vast majority rely on vehicles for transportation; but there are also indirect impacts that are concerning.
With a vast amount of our food coming up the highway, we can expect food prices to continue to climb. In fact, the price of any goods made outside the Yukon will likely see increases. Casual recreational trips to the communities for festivals, gatherings, or camping may become less frequent. There will also certainly be an impact on tourists travelling up the highway. Ultimately, the impacts will be broad and deep.
Which is why the Yukon Party has been calling on the Liberal Government to take action. The budget that passed a few weeks ago was stale and out-of-touch even before it was introduced. It failed to mention inflation or the cost-of-living. All that the current government has been able to muster is to say they will give Yukoners a one-time rebate of $150 of their own money to help with electricity. Most Yukoners have received this with a laugh. While sky-high fuel prices are not unique to the Yukon, this can no longer be used as an excuse for inaction, there are some real measures that the government could implement today to help Yukon families.
First, we have called for the temporary waiving of the Yukon fuel tax. Waiving the fuel tax is not a long-term solution, but at this stage, any relief would be welcome. Both Ontario and Alberta have cut or reduced their fuel taxes and a variety of red and blue states across the US have done the same. Further, the increase to the carbon tax that occurred in April made an already tough situation worse.
The federal carbon tax adopted and endorsed by the Yukon Liberals now accounts for about 12 cents a litre. This is a tax that, by design, is intended to increase the cost of living. In our current situation where a variety of other factors has combined to jolt the price upwards, the carbon tax seems redundant and counterproductive. There is a compelling case for the Yukon Liberals to appeal to their federal counterparts to suspend the carbon tax on these grounds – or at the very least – to exempt home heating fuel as is done in the Northwest Territories.
While we would prefer to see the carbon tax cut altogether, this seems unrealistic given the current government in Ottawa. However, the Yukon could control its own carbon tax, rather than endorse Justin Trudeau’s flawed system. The decision then could be made in the territory instead of Ottawa to exempt home heating fuel.
We have also proposed a temporary increase to the Pioneer Utility Grant for seniors that own or rent their homes and the doubling of the Home Owners Grant for seniors. Despite the Liberals’ indifference towards the rising cost of living for Yukoners, for many seniors that are on fixed-incomes the spike in fuel prices is particularly alarming.
Unfortunately, the Yukon Liberals have rejected or dismissed all of these proposals; the current Premier even went so far as to dismiss them as “parlour tricks.” We are under no illusion that we have all the answers, or that the government will accept all of our suggestions. However, it is frankly unacceptable that the Liberals continue to do nothing.
The price of fuel is a huge problem for our entire territory and it deserves a response from our government.
The Liberal government cannot continue to ignore this.
Leader of the Yukon Party Official Opposition
(Note: This letter appeared in the Friday, May 13, 2022 edition of the Whitehorse Star.)