Showing that CPC competence isn't an oxymoron
Thanks to blogger and commenter VW for noticing that the CPC has published the details of their transit tax credit plan:
“We would institute a 16% federal tax credit for transit users that will put hard-earned dollars back in the pockets of Canadians, and at the same time help our environment,” said Harper. “A real incentive like this encourages more people to take public transit which, in turn, means fewer cars on the roads and cleaner air.”
An average commuter paying $80 per month for a transit pass will see savings of $153 annually, while users of more costly commuter services like Ontario’s GO Transit will save up to $485. Importantly, the tax credit will provide real support to hard working Canadian parents, who will be able to claim the transit costs of their dependent children as well.
Within the narrow confines of this initiative, I see only one glaring hole: employer deductions. If you'd really like to push public transit, provide an incentive for employers to provide free transit passes the way they provide free parking.
And this line of attack made me cringe:
• As public transit becomes more affordable through this tax credit, more people will begin to use transit systems, and this will result in greater revenues for Transit Authorities and the municipalities which operate them. In turn, this will help them to expand service, leading to even fewer vehicles on the road.
• So, not only are we making it more affordable for people to use public transit, but municipalities will benefit from the revenues from increased rider-ship as well. And then they can provide better services which will in turn generate more use.
Municipalities may benefit from increased public transit revenues, but public transit will - and should - remain a net expenditure on government books. That is to say, each fare a rider pays is subsidized by one government or another. And if there's a tangible societal benefit to bolstering public transit use as opposed to private vehicle use, then that subsidy should remain.
Increased ridership will undoubtedly reduce the amount of subsidy per rider, which may free up resources to improve service. But even if it has that effect, this is a bit of a sleight of hand, considering that it's all prompted by a government subsidy in the form of a consumer tax credit. Since this is a classic closed system, what are the expected effects on government coffers from reduced gas taxes, reduced sales taxes on new vehicles, and reduced business and income taxes from the automotive industry? I think this entire argument is a bit spotty.
Of course, I still think this is a good idea. Unless public transit has a real competitive advantage - either price, convenience, or a combination of both - it will remain an also-ran to those with a choice of transportation means. For example, I commute by car because, while public transit would cost somewhat less than what I pay to drive, it would add a good two and a half hours on to my weekly commute, and tie me to a train or bus schedule. It's simply not worth the trade-off at this point.
Either Conservative plan - federal or provincial - might change that for a 'choice' commuter like me.
I also like the way the CPC plan outlines Liberal weaknesses. Firstly, it points out that the ruling oligarchy nicked the gas tax idea from the Conservatives. Since the Conservatives would continue that policy to help municipalities fund things like public transit, it's a winner - but I'm glad the Conservatives are taking their credit here. Secondly, it slams the Liberal Kyoto 'plan':
The Liberals have dedicated money towards buying hot air credits from other countries – instead of dealing with pollution and other causes of smog here at home; they’ll simply pay other countries for the right to pollute in our country. Everybody knows that this is buying time instead of providing real solutions.
What a lovely summary of the Liberal chicanery on this issue.
Lastly, I'm pleased that the Conservatives have provided a helpful money-in-your-pocket calculator to drive their point home. This is Salesmanship 101: for each feature your product provides, you need to answer the question "So what?" for your client. "What's in it for me?" forms the basis of any transaction - from a driver looking at switching to public transit, to a voter looking at switching to the CPC.
All in all, this is a good plan, well communicated, and well-timed to attract a headline or two. I was beginning to worry they didn't have it in them.