#74 – The Salt Tax

English Canadians love driving so much that they do it when driving makes no sense.

In 2008, Canada used 4 million tons of salt on its roads. Given that salt can cost anywhere from $50/ton to over $165/ton, 4 million tons is a lot of salt. Of course, dumping salt everywhere comes with amazing side-effects: corrosive damage to car brakes, shoes, and buildings and ecological damage to nearby creeks and water sources are what all infrastructure needs, right? Even though salt is hardly a thing we need to worry about running out of, the act of building ever-more low-density roads to treat like McDonald’s does its fries is probably not the sagest one we’ve ever had.

Still, the massive costs of this are borne by the public. Cities plow and salt and desalinate water supplies after salting them out of the public purse. Cities in English Canada tend to be full of shitty, horrible, awful, terrible, no-good suburbs – suburbs chalk-full of long curving roads and cul-de-sacs (which are difficult to plow and salt) going nowhere. So already we’ve brilliantly mashed our transit and housing infrastructure into cross-purposes. As cities bear the brunt of these costs and the “no taxin’ mah dreams” movement grows, the very roads upon which modern English Canada relies become extremely expensive. The larger roads, those which can be more effectively salted, are one thing; having carless me subsidizing those who can drive is ridiculous.

This salt tax is also applied to people who don’t drive on the roads and thus do not bear the same responsibility for paying for them as those who do use the roads for personal commuting. Those who cannot afford cars or simply don’t drive anymore (i.e.: the elderly) pay provincial and municipal taxes for a system that they cannot use. That the carless receive shipping and other benefits is beside the point – we’re still collectively subsidizing a system that those with money overwhelmingly use. Like how Ontario pays the Globe and Mail through the Interactive Digital Content subsidy, the whole is paying for something that it cannot use while systems that we can all use are simply ignored.

Meanwhile, the money to build a non car-centric urban environment simply never materializes. Excuses abound for why Canada must alone fail at high-speed rail despite the Windsor-Quebec City corridor being dense enough to support it. Adding transit or even bike lanes results in whimpering about parking space, as though getting some fucking exercise or taking a goddamn bus will turn people to stone. Those things are simply far beyond our means to afford, you see. Dreaming that Canada could one day surpass such titans of development as Morocco, Algeria, and Iran is too much for English Canada, which would rather twiddle its thumbs and continue salt-destroying itself every winter.

There’s no money to get out of the circle of wasted money caused by over-reliance on roads and personal motorcars. But spending an ever-growing amount on salt and sand indefinitely – that’s genius right there.

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