CAA Manitoba wants to make it easier for Manitobans to get a grip on a set of winter tires.
The association wants the province to slash the provincial sales tax from the cost of buying winter tires to make them more affordable for Manitobans.
“If the government of Manitoba is serious about safety, and serious about motoring safety, then they’ll consider this,” CAA Manitoba spokesperson Angele Faucher said. “It’s a great option to make it more affordable to all Manitobans.”
Winter tires are considered safer than all-season tires as they allow more control and make it easier to stop on snow and ice.
CAA Manitoba applauded a low-interest loan program for winter tires introduced this week by the province, but urged the government to also make winter tires exempt from the PST to make them more affordable.
The association notes that a set of winter tires costs about $1,000 on average. A PST exemption would save the consumer $80.
According to a 2011 CAA Manitoba survey of 11,000 members, respondents said cost was the No. 1 reason they don’t use winter tires.
About 75 per cent of respondents to a 2013 survey agreed that MPI should provide an insurance rebate for motorists who use winter tires, although a majority felt that they shouldn’t be mandatory.
Winter tires are mandatory on all passenger vehicles registered in Quebec where they’re required between Dec. 15 and March 15. The fine for failing to comply with the regulation ranges from $200 to $300.
The Manitoba government will not make winter tires mandatory.
Faucher said the association has pitched the idea of a rebate to MPI for four years. But she said they were told it was too tough to pull off, logistically — for example, confirming that those who claim the rebate are actually using winter tires would be difficult.
So now, they’re trying a different tactic.
“That’s why we thought, you know a PST exemption would probably make the best fit,” Faucher said, pointing out that other safety purchases such as bike helmets are already exempt from the sales tax.
The PST request would be in addition to a low-interest loan for winter tires, a program announced this week as part of the provincial budget.
Andrew Swan, the minister responsible for MPI, said the program will not only encourage people to use winter tires, it should make for lower insurance premiums due to fewer collisions claims.
“We think it’s a positive step,” Swan said.
MPI will administer the program, which spokesperson Brian Smiley said is expected to launch this fall.
There are no details yet, but Smiley said it would be similar to a program offered by MPI for immobilizers. Tires would have to meet specific snow traction requirements established by Transport Canada and the Rubber Association of Canada.
The discussion around winter tires comes as the number of winter collisions has spiked during an especially cold winter that has been noted for lousy road conditions.
MPI figures show that 3,800 collision claims were logged between Dec. 1 and Feb. 28 in Westman. There were 3,300 recorded for the same period the previous year.
In December, CAA responded to more than 20,000 calls for help, ranging from tows to the repair of block heater cords.
“There have been a lot more tows and boosts and just overall requests for service this winter,” Faucher said.
Brandon Police Service Sgt. Kevin Loewen said motorists need to adjust their driving to winter conditions, but they should also use winter tires if their budget allows.
When it comes to CAA’s no PST proposal, Loewen questioned whether it will be effective. Retailers already offer tire deals throughout the year so there are already incentives for consumers.
The combination of the low-interest loan program combined with a business promotion would be more likely to get the support of the public, Loewen said.
Swan was noncommittal when asked about CAA’s suggestion to exempt winter tires from the PST. He pointed out that the PST was raised to eight per cent from seven per cent, and extra PST revenue has been earmarked for highway improvements.