Opinion

Another Bitter Year Brewing for B.C. Taxpayers

Once the champagne is drunk, the noisemakers go silent, the balloons pop and the New Year’s kisses end, 2013 will bring one nasty hangover for cash-strapped B.C. taxpayers.

Taxes, fees and levies from all levels of government are set to go up, leaving even less of your hard-earned money in your pocket.

It already started when January’s Medical Services Premium bills arrived in the mail in late December. The B.C. government has raised their so-called health care tax again – this time from $128 per month for a family to $133. That means the MSP has increased 24 per cent in just three years – adding $300 in annual taxes.

The MSP tax hike is especially objectionable. Even if you don’t use the health care system, you are forced to pay this so-called “user fee.” And it’s hardly an “insurance premium” either. When you drive too fast or cause a lot of car accidents, your car insurance premium rightfully goes up. If you act just as recklessly with your health, you pay the same MSP as the local health nut.

In truth, it’s a regressive tax. If you make $30,001 a year, or $3 million a year, you pay the same $133 MSP a month. Of course, politicians and government workers don’t care much – your taxes pick up their MSP tab, so they don’t even see a bill. MSP is for the little people who don’t work for government.

Your take home pay will also shrink this year thanks to the federal government. British Columbians earning at least $47,400 will pay $51.50 more in Employment Insurance premiums in 2013; their employers will kick in another $71.61.

Anyone earning over $51,100 will also pay $49.50 more in Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions this year. Employers will kick in a matching amount.

Government monopolies are also increasing their prices. B.C. Hydro’s latest 3.91 per cent increase will take effect April 1, costing the average homeowner another $36 a year – plus tax. No word on whether 99 per cent of their staff will continue to get bonuses this year.

In Metro Vancouver, TransLink will raise their share of property taxes by roughly 1.5 per cent on July 1, thanks to legislation that makes an increase virtually automatic.

TransLink is also increasing fares 10 per cent. A three-zone ticket will now cost $5.50. In the Fraser Valley, B.C. Transit is also raising its bus fares, from $1.75 to $2.25.

The Golden Ears Bridge ties its toll increases to the annual rate of inflation, which is 1.4 per cent, so drivers can expect that to increase as well in mid-July. Over on the Port Mann Bridge, half-price $1.50 tolls are coming to end during 2013. A round trip across the bridge will soon cost $6.

Virtually every city hall in B.C. – with very few exceptions such as Penticton – will take more in property taxes on July 1. Most hikes are in the neighbourhood of three per cent– twice the rate of inflation. Regional districts are also upping their tax grab on July 1.

These are just the taxes we know about. February’s provincial budget will have to deal with the transition back to the PST, and could include business tax increases, a carbon tax hike, lowering personal tax exemptions and raising the MSP again.

All these different governments and agencies justify their increases by stressing how it’s just a few more dollars – hardly noticeable to the average family. But there’s still only one taxpayer and in 2013, our burden will get heavier, thanks to governments that would rather raise taxes than deal with their core spending issues.

Happy New Year, taxpayers. We hope you survive the experience.

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