Thursday, April 20, 2006

put up or shut up; but who wears the skirt, mackay or harper ...

Mixed signals from Harper, MacKay on relief for drivers
19 Apr 2006, CBC News

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay appeared to send mixed messages Wednesday over how much relief the government can give motorists dealing with high gasoline prices.

Speaking to reporters in Halifax, MacKay hinted that drivers could get a break when the federal budget is introduced late this month or in early May.

MacKay said there is little the government can do to ease the international tensions blamed for the latest price spike. However, he said that the Conservatives are looking at tax relief.

"There [are] discussions about that right now, and we have a budget coming and we're getting all kinds of submissions ... on what to cut and what not to cut," said MacKay.

But hours later in Manitoba, Harper said the only relief Canadians can look for will be when his government lowers the GST to six per cent from seven per cent. He admitted that would only provide "marginal" relief to motorists.

"The truth of the matter is higher gas prices – that's going to be something that we're going to have to get used to."

Gasoline prices have been fluctuating wildly across the country for the past several weeks.

A survey by MJ Ervin and Associates found the average cost of a litre of regular gasoline was almost $1.08 this week, the highest the group has found in any April price survey.

When Harper was in Opposition, he repeatedly went after the government over gas prices, accusing the Liberals of reaping the benefits of high gas prices through higher tax revenues.

He said it was particularly offensive that Ottawa was charging GST on its own gas excise tax.

"Something is seriously wrong when Canadians are hurting from high gas prices and its own government is benefiting from their pain. Will the prime minister agree to at least axe the tax on the tax?" he said back then.

Harper campaigned in 2004 on a pledge to stop charging federal tax on the increase when the price of gasoline goes above 85 cents a litre.

"That was a commitment made – a policy we had some time ago. The commitment we made in the election campaign was to cut the GST."

FROM MAY 17, 2004: Harper proposes GST break on high gas prices

Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who has been campaigning to reform the oil and gas industry since 1998, said Harper has to live up to his words.

"He has to put up or he has to shut up and admit that that was bad policy or in fact break a promise that he made to Canadians."