Liberals refuse to pay back $19 million in illegal Drive Clean taxes

QUEEN’S PARK – The Liberals continue to reject the Ontario PC Caucus’s demands to pay back the millions of dollars that the government took from drivers across the province using its illegal Drive Clean tax-grab, PC Environment Critic and Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris said today.

“I have asked the Environment Minister several times in the Legislature if the Liberal government will respect the law and pay back the money Ontario drivers were unlawfully forced to fork over when getting their vehicles e-tested. But every time, the Minister refuses to answer,” Harris said. “Unfortunately, it may take a lawsuit against the government before the Liberals finally do the right thing and pay the money back.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that profits made off of revenue-neutral programs, like Drive Clean, are unlawful and must be paid back. The Auditor General reported in 2012 that the Liberals had made $11 million in profits off of Drive Clean, and last week CTV News Toronto determined that number has now increased to $19 million.

“It is clearer than ever that the Drive Clean program has evolved into nothing more than a government tax-grab,” Harris said. “Given that the Liberals will not commit to pay back the $19 million they illegally took from Ontario drivers, it’s obvious that Drive Clean is not about protecting the environment; it’s just about the money.”

The Ontario PC Caucus and PC Leader Tim Hudak have been calling on the Liberal government to scrap Drive Clean for more than two years. This temporary program was introduced by former PC Environment Minister Norm Sterling in 1999. The point of Drive Clean was to reduce vehicle emissions until cars and fuels became cleaner.

“Well, that’s happened. Fuel efficiency and fuel quality standards have improved to the point at which Drive Clean no longer serves a purpose,” Harris said. “That’s why we and even the program’s creator, Mr. Sterling, have said it is time to begin phasing out the program.”