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Gatineau looks to implement vehicle registration tax

STO is the main public transit body in Gatineau, Que. The city is looking at introducing a vehicle registration tax to help fund public transit. (CBC - image credit)
STO is the main public transit body in Gatineau, Que. The city is looking at introducing a vehicle registration tax to help fund public transit. (CBC - image credit)

The City of Gatineau is looking at bringing in a vehicle registration tax to help improve public transportation.

As part of Bill 39, the province passed legislation late last year that allowed municipalities and counties that have public transportation services to have the right to tax vehicle registration based on fuel consumption.

The tax been requested by several mayors and greater Montreal has already brought in the tax, charging an extra $59 annually per car.

On Tuesday, Gatineau city council voted unanimously to ask city staff to begin discussions with the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), Quebec's automobile insurance board which would implement the tax.

Municipalities must confirm their interest to implement the tax to the SAAQ before March 15, in order for it to be put in place on Jan. 1.

"We did not want to miss the opportunity," said former Gatineau Mayor France Bélisle in French during a media scrum Wednesday, a day before she stepped down as mayor.

"If we didn't move forward with this, we would spend a year … so that's why it was important to do it."

France Bélisle, the former president of Tourisme Outaouais, is vying to become the mayor of Gatineau.
France Bélisle, the former president of Tourisme Outaouais, is vying to become the mayor of Gatineau.

France Bélisle said she supported brining in the tax on Wednesday, a day before she stepped down as mayor. (Hugo Bélanger/Radio-Canada)

It is still unknown what the fee in Gatineau will be. Cities have the right to decide their own amounts, according to the SAAQ.

Bélisle said she didn't know if the extra money would be used to compensate what the city already puts into public transportation, or if this would be used as a surplus.

"I imagine it will be an exciting city council discussion," she said.

"The finance committee will look into this to make recommendations … to see what we are doing, how much, how we apply it and what the comfort level of council is."

Alternative transportation advocate in support 

Since 1992, owners of passenger vehicles in some Quebec municipalities, including the Gatineau region, have paid an annual contribution for public transportation.

In the Gatineau area, that costs $30.

"It's very good news," said Robert Meunier, general manager of MOBI-O, an alternative transportation advocacy group in the region. He's happy to see potentially more money go toward transit.

"We know that vehicles and automobiles are a big cost to society. Each dollar that person puts in his car when whenever car is it costs $5 to $6 to society."

Patrick Robert-Meunier, general manager of MOBI-O, an alternative transportation advocate applauds the tax.
Patrick Robert-Meunier, general manager of MOBI-O, an alternative transportation advocate applauds the tax.

Patrick Robert-Meunier, an alternative transportation advocate, applauds the tax. (Simon LaSalle/Radio-Canada)

He said he understands that it appears drivers will be paying more, but he said vehicle owners aren't paying the true cost of driving because the roads are not tolled and parking is often free.

He welcomes the opportunity to fund many types of alternative transportation including biking and walking, along with public transit.

In order for the bylaw to go into effect next year, SAAQ requires council to adopt it by May 31.