Thursday, January 28, 2016

Saxe wants end to diesel subsidy, but likes farmers

Ontario's new Environment Commissioner said when she was in Paris for climate change negotiations that she agrees that all fuel subsidies should be eliminated, but now says she's not targeting Ontario farmers.

Don McCabe, président of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, said he's pleased to hear that and said farmers share her concern for the environment.

But what does it all mean? Who knows?

At stake is exemption from a diesel fuel tax of 14.5 cents per litre.

"Perhaps we could, for the same money, treat farmers more fairly, get cleaner air and do less climate damage," Saxe said in an interview. 

"It sounded as if I was against money for farmers, which couldn't be farther from the truth."

Saxe insisted she's not saying the diesel tax exemption is a bad thing, or trying to dictate what the policy should be, but said it's something that should be looked at.

"The whole world is looking at fossil fuel subsidies," she said. "I'm just asking: why do we have this? Could we do it better? And I think it's possible we could."

About $190 million a year is not collected in diesel tax in Ontario, and Saxe said she's not convinced most of that fuel is being used by farmers. It's also available to the mining, forestry and unlicensed construction industry.

"Most of it, as far as I can tell, goes to other industries," she said. "I'm still trying to get those numbers from the ministry of finance."

Saxe said she knows farmers don't like the tax exemption to be called a subsidy and said what she wants is to open a discussion.

"I applaud the environmental commissioner for trying to find opportunities to work with farmers," McCabe is quoted by Canadian Press.