Published in the Martlet (Victoria), 22 February 2000
Truckers across Canada are parking their rigs to protest rising fuel prices. The deep rumble of air horns lingers in the air from Parliament Hill to the Maritimes.
After decades of declining real wages, rising prices have pushed these workers towards militancy. Stalling Toronto-area freeways, shutting down border-crossings, their message is resounding across the country.
Some suggest that high taxes are to blame for the increased cost of fuel.
A glance at Shell Corporation’s ledger sheet for 1999 paints a different picture. The company took in $149 billion in gross sales, $44 billion of which went to gasoline sales taxes. The fuel itself cost $81 billion, with $10 billion more going to miscellaneous expenses.
That left Shell with a before-tax income of $15.2 billion. The company paid $5.7 billion in corporate taxes, resulting in a profit of $8.8 billion.
To put that figure into perspective, the federal government of Canada spent $10.1 billion on healthcare and education last year.
Fuel should be a public commodity. Alternate forms of energy and transportation should be encouraged through public funding to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Nonetheless, fuel should be made accessible and affordable to workers who need it for their livelihood.
The Chretien Liberal’s need to implement price controls on commercial fuel, freezing corporate profits so that Canadian workers can make a living.
The ‘On-to-Ottawa Trek’ of the 1930s ended slave labour in Depression-era work camps and led to the creation of the Unemployment Insurance program. Maybe truckers could use a similar convergence on the nation’s capital to get their message across.