Whether it is a fee, a rate or a service charge, if you are paying it to fund a government program, you might as well call it what it is: a tax. Premier Clark might claim that her budget didn’t raise taxes, but we all know that costs to taxpayers for government services are still rising.
For instance, BC Hydro rates are going up by 28% over the next 5 years. While the Minister of Energy will tell you that the reason for the rate increase is to repair aging infrastructure, the truth is that much of that increase is going directly to provincial revenue.
Here’s how it works. In order to ‘balance’ the budget, the BC Liberals simply require crown corporations such as BC Hydro to pay a specific ‘dividend’ to the province as the corporation’s only shareholder. It does not matter whether or not the corporation actually has enough profit to pay the dividend; the dividend must simply be paid.
The only way for BC Hydro to make this payment to government’s coffers is to raise your hydro rates. That’s a tax.
We all know that we have to contribute in order to fund government programs; we don’t like paying taxes, but we know we have to work together to make society function. And we agree that those who are most able to pay should pay more than those who are struggling.
But the BC Hydro rate ‘tax’ hits hardest those who can least afford to pay. Every person, regardless of income, will pay the same rate increase, and for many in our communities this is just too much to bear.
So when you hear Premier Clark and her Minister of Finance claim that there are no new taxes and we have a balanced budget, keep in mind the path we are taking to get there.
In the case of BC Hydro, we are heavily taxing individuals who have no other option to heat and light their homes. And we are throwing away our established principles of tax fairness just to serve the Premier’s political agenda.
Norm Macdonald is the MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke |