Fee increases a sure sign of the new year

B.C. residents can expect to pay more for most government services

Tax and fee increases have become as sure a sign that a new year has arrived as champagne and fireworks.

According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, B.C. residents can expect to see hikes in the rates they pay for MSP, EI, CPP, BC Hydro, ICBC and BC Ferries. Among the increases for 2015, the Medical Services Premium Tax goes up $33 a year for individuals and $66 for families; EI and CPP taxes will go up $23 in 2015; BC Hydro announced a six per cent hike in electricity rates for April 1, which amounts to an estimated $72 for the average home; BC Ferries will boost fares 3.9 per cent; and ICBC is expected to raise basic auto insurance, estimated to be $36 for the average car.

“Every government and agency seems to get their pound of flesh, and one wonders when enough will be enough,” said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The simple answer to that question seems to be never. BC Ferries shows that even the threat of decreasing revenues and a damaged economy can’t restrain the Crown corporation’s temptation to gouge its customers. A Union of B.C. Municipalities report shows that fare increases have driven down ridership on BC Ferries at a cost of $2.3 billion to the provincial GDP. But the potential of an economic downturn isn’t enough to deter BC Ferries from bringing in the increase that will more than offset the gains from its much-heralded elimination of the fuel surcharge.

But perhaps the most troubling increase is the one to basic auto insurance premiums. The increase comes despite the government funnelling more than $150 million from the Crown corporation into provincial coffers, and it will be targeted at safe drivers along with those actually responsible for any increase in claims.

It’s clear that when it comes to fee hikes, fairness and financial returns play no part in the equation. It’s just a new year’s plunge into the taxpayers’ wallet.