Toronto Gas Tax

by cmacmillan on August 28, 2015

Implementing a regional gasoline tax in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) would help reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and traffic accidents concludes a new study published in the latest issue of Canadian Public Policy, Canada’s foremost academic journal examining economic and social policy.

“A regional gasoline tax, similar to the one in Metro Vancouver, could shorten commutes, provide cleaner air, and prevent injuries, while raising revenue that could be used to reduce other taxes, fund public transit, or reduce the provincial debt” said Joel Wood, study author and Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University.

The study, Is It Time to Raise the Gas Tax? Optimal Gasoline Taxes for Ontario and Toronto, argues that gasoline taxes are levied for two important reasons: to raise revenue for government in a minimally intrusive way and to reduce the negative effects of driving (e.g., traffic congestion, air pollution, and accidents). Recently, there have been proposals to implement a 5 cent per litre gasoline tax in the GTHA to pay for public transit infrastructure, notably Metrolinx’s The Big Move plan. The study surveys estimates of how consumers respond to gasoline taxes, the costs of traffic congestion, the costs of air pollution, and many other parameters, and then uses these estimates in an economic model to calculate that a regional gasoline tax in the GTHA should be around 15 cents per litre (a total gasoline tax bill of 40.57 cents per litre).

“An additional 15 cent tax may seem high to Toronto drivers, but it is on par with the regional gasoline tax levied in Metro Vancouver. The existence of a similar tax in Metro Vancouver is suggestive that a regional tax of this value is a real possibility for the GTHA,” said Wood.
The study also notes that the Ontario gasoline tax has not changed since 1992 and the federal gasoline tax has not changed since 1995. The study also calculates a value for the Ontario-wide gasoline tax if a regional tax is not introduced and concludes that a five cent increase is justified.

“Gasoline taxes haven’t been raised since the early 1990s and have not increased with inflation; whereas, income tax paid increases as incomes adjust to inflation. Drivers in Ontario have paid gasoline taxes that were much higher in inflation adjusted terms in the past,” Wood said.

The study considers two possibilities of what could be done with the resulting revenue from higher gasoline taxes: Reducing income taxes or funding public transit. It is noted that the Metro Vancouver gasoline tax is earmarked to funding Translink, the regional transportation authority. The choice of what is done with the revenue does not affect the technical results of the study. However, the study notes that using the revenue to fund public transit could benefit lower income groups who may be negatively impacted by the tax.

“Funding transit may help build public support for the tax by mitigating possible regressive impacts. There also may be gains in public support if the earmarking is done in a transparent manner so taxpayers can see that the money is not going into general revenues,” said Wood.

The full article can be found at CPP Online and has been temporarily made open access and free to read.


Media Contact:

Joel Wood

Assistant Professor, School of Business and Economics, Thompson Rivers University

Telephone: (250)-371-5583


Twitter: @JoelWWood

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Written by guest blogger, Wei Cui.



How much does law—legal institutions, legal rules and norms, and behavior oriented towards them—matter to tax administration? In advanced economies, we take it for granted that taxation is governed by the rule of law. Indeed, a fundamental reason many people would offer for why they pay tax is that doing so is required by law. Economists have also produced evidence that the growth of tax revenue in the 20th century in all developed countries was entirely driven by taxes that require self-assessment and voluntary compliance. Voluntary tax compliance and self-reporting are, of course, rule-following behavior par excellence.

However, when economists study tax administration in developing countries, they are very ambivalent about what role to ascribe to legal norms and institutions. Many simply equate rule-compliant behavior with being in the formal sector. Others vaguely surmise that judicial monitoring may benefit tax administration. Perhaps revealingly, many recent empirical studies emphasize the importance for governments to obtain information about taxpayers’ activities. But if the government possessed perfect information about taxpayers, self-assessment and voluntary compliance would not be necessary. So economists appear to be more interested in substitutes for law-abiding behavior than in such behavior itself.

In a recently published article in the University of Toronto Law Journal (“Administrative decentralization and tax compliance: A transactional cost perspective”), I present an example that may help shake up our intuitions about the relation between law and tax administration in developing countries. I describe a country with one of the smallest informal sectors in the world, a reasonably high level of literacy, and a reasonably advanced financial sector (by developing country standards). The country also appears to have collected tax revenue successfully in the last twenty years, with tax revenue growing faster every year than an already very fast-growing GDP. Yet this country’s tax system relies very little on self-assessment and voluntary compliance. Its administrative practices are also often in conflict with legal norms. So the example allows one to separate law-related institutions and behavior from other factors that might determine the outcome of tax administrations: in respect of the role of law much more than in respect of these other factors, the country differs sharply from developed countries. What difference does this make to the country’s tax system?

The country I describe is contemporary China. China’s tax system is surprisingly under-studied by both legal scholars and social scientists, so my description needed to proceed through several steps. I first argue that China’s tax system is highly distortionary because it does not rely on self-assessment and voluntary compliance. For the taxes that generate the most revenue, tax agency officials play a very intrusive role in determining taxpayers’ liabilities. To enable tax collectors to play such a role, much of tax policy design has to be compromised. And where the government cannot play such intrusive role, little tax is collected.

I then address the question of why there is so little self-assessment and voluntary compliance in Chinese taxation. My hypothesis is that the organization of Chinese tax administration inadvertently precludes a lot of voluntary rule-following behavior. While the size of tax administration relative to population in China is only half of that of Canada (0.8 tax collectors per thousand working-age person in China versus 1.69 tax collectors in Canada), most Chinese tax collectors are placed in a dense network of local tax offices. They work hard to ensure that taxpayers in their local jurisdictions register for tax purposes and pay some tax—which probably explains the small size of China’s informal sector—but are ill-positioned to specialize and follow the development of increasingly complex tax law. In the meantime, Chinese taxpayers are much more likely to have personal interactions with their tax administrators on a routine basis than in Canada. It is these local tax administrators that determine their tax liabilities, so taxpayers are much more interested in what these local tax administrators think than what the law says. These frequent interactions encourage a mode of tax collection—and dispute resolution—that is often informal and in deviation from legal requirements. I call the behavior that results “quasi-compliance”: taxpayers are compliant, not with legal requirements, but with local tax administrators’ views of what is required.

The phenomenon I describe is potentially quite significant for developing countries. It implies that there may be substantial trade-offs between different tax administration goals: registration, meeting revenue targets, and taxpayer service, on the one hand, and inducing voluntary compliance, on the other. Conceivably, how citizens deal with the government in tax compliance may also have spillover effects on other realms of compliance. More detailed empirical investigation thus seems desirable. The research is consistent with the idea that the rule of law has micro-foundations, and legal scholars should aim to discover them through empirical inquiry.

Wei Cui’s article, “Administrative decentralization and tax compliance: A transactional cost perspective″ appears in Volume 65 Issue 3 (Summer 2015) of the University of Toronto Law Journal. Read it today by clicking here:

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Written by guest blogger, Cheryl Thompson.


Thompson_picI have a PhD from McGill University in Communication Studies. My interdisciplinary research includes Media Studies and Visual Studies, Consumer Culture, Black Canadian History, and Racial and Gender Stereotyping. In 2015, after the initial submission of dissertation on Canada’s black beauty culture history, I stumbled upon the Canadian Journal of History’s (CJH) Graduate Essay Prize. At first, I worried that I did not fit the criteria as a true historian. This thought, however, was soon replaced by belief in my topic. I was truly passionate about my article and the fact that it explored an area in Canadian historical studies and media history that has been overlooked. If I focused on that, I thought, I could win the prize.

Even before writing the paper, I knew that I had a treasure trove of information that didn’t quite fit within my dissertation. Before writing, however, I went to the CJH’s website and read a few articles in order to get a sense of the publication’s tone. I previously had an article accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Feminist Media Studies so I had an idea of the peer review process but unlike the latter, which was a contemporary piece, this would be an historical article the likes of which I had never written before.

I decided to focus my article on the Dawn of Tomorrow, a London, Ontario-based African Canadian newspaper, rather than talk broadly about black newspapers in Canada. By focusing on The Dawn, I was able to distance the article from my dissertation’s focus on the role African Canadian newspapers played in the dissemination of beauty culture. By focusing more specifically on The Dawn, the longest in-circulation African Canadian newspaper on record, I gave my article a clear focus. Second, I didn’t realize it at the time but in retrospect I had purposely not used much of my archival research on The Dawn in my dissertation thinking that a standalone article would make a strong contribution.

If you’re thinking of submitting to the Graduate Essay Prize you need to be creative and think about what you can say about a topic in a standalone piece that you have not already said in a larger piece, i.e. your dissertation. You also need to think about why you are writing your article. Is the topic underexplored? Have you uncovered something new about an existing topic? Do you have time to write the article? After I submitted my dissertation I had a lot of free time on my hands. Instead of going on a vacation or mulling over my plight (i.e. as an unemployed PhD with no teaching appointment or post-doc) I decided to focus on what I could control – my writing. Over the course of several weeks I wrote my article and I can truly say that winning the CJH Graduate Essay Prize has affirmed that my research matters. And that has made all the difference in how I approach not only publishing but also the job market.

Cheryl Thompson’s article, “Cultivating Narratives of Race, Faith, and Community: The Dawn of Tomorrow, 1923–1971″ appeared in Volume 50 Issue 1 (2015) of the Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadienne d’histoire. Read it today by clicking here:

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What Makes Canada’s Literature “Canadian”?

by cmacmillan on June 29, 2015

What makes a piece of literature “Canadian”? Is a piece of writing considered “Canadian” if it takes place in Canada? If the author is a citizen? If it’s the author’s birth place? This question has been long debated amongst Canadian Studies scholars and may never have a conclusive answer. Over the years, the International Journal of Canadian Studies and the Journal of Canadian Studies have both been sources that have facilitated the research of Canada’s literature by scholars, both domestic and abroad. The articles below reflect all the fascinating discoveries and discussions that have taken place over the years and that have expanded the definition of what defines a piece of writing as “Canadian”.

International Journal of Canadian Studies

Kuttainen, Victoria. “Trafficking Literature: Travel, Modernity, and the Middle Ground of Canadian and Australian Middlebrow Print Cultures 1.” International Journal of Canadian Studies 48 (2014): 85-103. Web.

Lang, Anouk. “Canadian Magazines and Their Spatial Contexts: Digital Possibilities and Practical Realities.” International Journal of Canadian Studies 48 (2014): 213-32. Web.

Morgan, Cecilia. ““A Sweet Canadian Girl”: English-Canadian Actresses’ Transatlantic and Transnational Careers through the Lenses of Canadian Magazines, 1890s–1940s.” International Journal of Canadian Studies 48 (2014): 119-35. Web.

Roberts, Gillian. “The Book of Negroes ’ Illustrated Edition: Circulating African-Canadian History through the Middlebrow.” International Journal of Canadian Studies 48 (2014): 53-66. Web.

Roy, Wendy. “Home as Middle Ground in Adaptations of Anne of Green Gables and Jalna.” International Journal of Canadian Studies 48 (2014): 9-31. Web.

Vautier, Marie. “Hemispheric Travel from Europe to Las Américas : The Imaginary and the Novel in Québec and Canada.” International Journal of Canadian Studies 48 (2014): 191-212. Web.

Journal of Canadian Studies

Camlot, Jason. “The Sound of Canadian Modernisms: The Sir George Williams University Poetry Series, 1966-74.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 46.3 (2012): 28-59. Project MUSE. Web.

Davis, Laura K. “Hockey in the Canadian Imagination: Three Books on Hockey in Literature, Culture, and History.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 46.1 (2012): 241-250. Project MUSE. Web.

Davis, Rocío G. “Locating Family: Asian-Canadian Historical Revisioning in Linda Ohama’s Obaachan’s Garden and Ann Marie Fleming’s The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 42.1 (2008): 1-22. Project MUSE. Web.

Fiamengo, Janice. “Looking at Animals, Encountering Mystery: The Wild Animal Stories of Ernest Thompson Seton and Charles G.D. Roberts.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 44.1 (2010): 36-59. Project MUSE. Web.

Fuller, Danielle. and DeNel Rehberg Sedo. “A Reading Spectacle for the Nation: The CBC and “Canada Reads”. Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 40.1 (2006): 5-36. Project MUSE. Web.

Garay, Kathleen E. and Christl Verduyn. “”Turning the Knobs on Writers’ Closets”: Archives and Canadian Literature in the 21st Century.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 40.2 (2006): 5-17. Project MUSE. Web.

Lecker, Robert. “Nineteenth-Century English-Canadian Anthologies and the Making of a National Literature.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 44.1 (2010): 91-117. Project MUSE. Web.

Robbins, Wendy. and Robin Sutherland. and Shao-Pin Luo. “Searching for Our Alma Maters: Women Professors in Canadian Fiction Written by Women.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 42.2 (2008): 43-72. Project MUSE. Web.

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Written by guest blogger, Anna F. Peppard, PhD Candidate, York University

I have a confession to make: I am obsessed with The A-Team.

I began watching the show more than a decade ago, as a second-year undergrad with access to cable television for the first time, in my first apartment. Initially, I was compelled by a personal connection. I’m a distant relative of the show’s headline star, George Peppard, and people sometimes ask me about this when they hear my name, usually referencing The A-Team.

When I finally watched my first episode, I was hooked for a different reason.

The show was dumb, and yet, not dumb at all. In fact, it didn’t take me long to realize that behind (or, more appropriately, within) all the bloodless explosions, unconvincing disguises, hails of toothless bullets, and wordless montages featuring four grown men constructing Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions to soak ruthless bands of cowboy-hat wearing goons with orange soda, the show is incredibly smart. Politically problematic (to say the least), but fascinatingly sophisticated in its self-reflexive exploitation and exaggeration of the genre conventions of American action heroes.

After my first episode, I never missed the daily reruns, weekdays at 5pm on DejaView. Because I had class at the same time, I usually recorded the show using my VCR (this was before the days of Tivo, Netflic, or YouTube). Sometimes, though, I skipped class to watch. At that point in my life, the sonnets of John Donne just couldn’t compete with the cartoonishly violent exploits of Hannibal, Face, Murdoch, and B.A., criss-crossing the country in their GMC Vandura, fighting the good fight for the little guy against the big guy.

My decade-plus fascination with the show culminated in my first published article, “How Tonto Became Mr. T: The A-Team and the Transformation of the Western in Post-Vietnam America,” which appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of the Canadian Review of American Studies. The journey from fannish obsession to critical analysis was, however, not an easy one. I wrote the original version of the article as a term paper for a graduate seminar, during the first year of my PhD program at York University in Toronto. That paper was not well received. Actually, it was a disaster, very nearly earning me a failing grade—an unsettling experience for a lifelong straight-A student.

A wiser person might have taken that initial reception as a sign, and moved on. But I was sure I had the makings of a good idea buried somewhere in the thick file folder of hand-written, colour-coded notes I’d compiled while re-watching every episode of the show.

I stuck with it, and presented a revised version of the paper at the Canadian Association of American Studies conference, in 2011. That was my first academic conference, and I was more than a little nervous; I remember my voice wobbling as I tried to explain the significance of Hannibal Smith’s obsession with aquatic monster b-movies. To my relief, though, my conference paper was much better received than my term paper. So when the conference attendees were invited to revise their papers into articles for possible publication in CRAS, I thought I might as well toss my hat in the ring. Several months later, I was thrilled—and more than a little relieved—when my article was accepted for publication.

During the three years that it took to turn my once-disastrous term paper into a published article, by far my biggest challenge was untangling my own vexed relationship with the subject matter. As any academic who studies popular culture will tell you, writing about something you love a bit too much—something of which you’re not only an expert, but also a fan—can be very difficult. It involves interrogating your own emotions, your own desires, confronting your own manipulation by the entertainment machine, and your potential implication in the dissemination of questionable politics; inevitably, it means loving your obsession a bit less, or at the very least, a bit less unreservedly.

And yet, it’s also very rewarding, and, I think, very important. The study of popular culture is, essentially, the study of pleasure; it explores the human condition by examining what makes people happy. As John Fiske argues in his influential book Television Culture, even the most obviously escapist texts can teach us a great deal when we take the time to consider “what is escaped from, why escape is necessary, and what is escaped to.” From 1983 to 1987, The A-Team reflected and placated the complex needs and fantasies of a diverse group of 20 million people who once tuned in to watch it every week, and it’s these needs and fantasies that I tried to uncover and, hopefully, understand in the final version of my article.

I started out thinking that The A-Team was exceptional. And, in some ways, it is; I can’t quite say that there’s ever been another show quite like it. In another sense, though, it’s just like a great many other popular texts: seemingly unique while being, at its core, intensely familiar, sophisticated less in its politics than in its modes of representation, that is, in its ability to tell an old story in a new way, one that feels relevant to a social and political landscape that is, like the show itself, mostly a well-disguised return of the same.

These days, I’m still obsessed with The A-Team, even if I don’t love it quite as much as I used to. I will, however, always love that it began what will hopefully be a long career of analyzing popular culture.

Anna F. Peppard’s “How Tonto Became Mr. T: The A-Team and the Transformation of the Western in Post-Vietnam America”, can be found in the Summer 2014 issue of the Canadian Review of American Studies. Click Here to Read.

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Metadata – How to choose Keywords

May 1, 2015

In this series of blog posts we will be talking about how to make your article more discoverable by giving it rich, descriptive metadata. If you missed it, read our first post about what metadata is and how search engines use it, our post on how to write a great title, and our last post […]

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Metadata – Why bother writing an abstract?

May 1, 2015

In this series of blog posts we will be talking about how to make your article more discoverable by giving it rich, descriptive metadata. If you missed it, read our first post about what metadata is and how search engines use it and our post on how to write a great title. Abstracts – are […]

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Metadata – Importance of the Title

May 1, 2015

In this series of blog posts we will be talking about how to make your article more discoverable by giving it rich, descriptive metadata. If you missed it, read our first post about what metadata is and how search engines use it. The first piece of metadata that we are going to talk about it […]

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Scorpions in a Bottle: First Ministers and a Scrap over Canadian Federalism

April 13, 2015

Written by guest blogger, Raymond Blake Governing is a messy business in any state and none more so than in federal ones like Canada where authority is shared between two orders of government. Yet, federalism is not an end in itself but simply a means of dividing jurisdiction in the hopes of capturing the loyalty […]

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Canadian Historical Review author, Lisa Pasolli, explores the Child Care dilemma for Canadian Mothers during WWII

March 30, 2015

Written by guest blogger, Lisa Pasolli During the Second World War, thirty-four day care centres in Ontario and Quebec were established under the Dominion-Provincial Wartime Day Nurseries Agreement (WDNA). This shared federal-provincial funding of child care services was unprecedented in Canada, and federal officials insisted throughout the war that the agreement was no more than […]

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