VICTORIA – A former Liberal government key advisor and chief of staff has acknowledged that raising fees and premiums, as the Liberals have done extensively since taking office, are a hidden form of taxation and defer the burden to future generations.
Martyn Brown, in his book Towards a New Government in British Columbia said “Governments are not being fully honest or transparent about the tax burdens they are imposing” when they are “raising fees, licenses, premiums, penalties, levies, utility rates, tolls and other hidden forms of taxes.”
Brown continued, “They are charging new fees for services, they are extracting new and higher hidden taxes from Crown corporations. And they are deferring tax burdens to future generations through debt, deferral accounts and public-private partnerships.”
Here is a look at just a few of the fees, premiums, rates and “other hidden forms of taxes” that have increased dramatically under the B.C. Liberals:
- On Apr. 1 of this year, hydro rates increased by more than seven per cent, or about $70 per year for the average residential customer. At the same time British Columbians have been forced to pay more for hydro, the Liberal government has increased the size of the annual dividend it takes from the crown corporation by $100 million as compared to the previous decade. In the current fiscal year, the government dividend taken from BC Hydro will reach $566 million.
- Ferry fares also increased on Apr. 1. Since 2003, when our ferries were privatized by the Liberals, fares have gone up by 47 per cent on major routes and 80 per cent on minor routes. For the major routes, a family of four on a one-way trip can expect to pay about $94, or $34 more than in 2003.
- Metro Vancouver has the highest transit fares in Canada, at $5 for a three-zone pass.
- The Liberals still haven’t eliminated their HST. The tax drives up the costs for thousands of goods and services and families will continue to pay it until Apr. 2013, even though it was voted down in a referendum in Aug. 2011. As Brown put it in his book, “it was so clearly a tax shift that took more money from [voters’] pockets to facilitate lower taxes for businesses.”
- Medical Service Premiums were increased by six per cent for the third year in a row on Jan. 1, 2012. They will increase by another four per cent in Jan. 2013. At that point a B.C. family will pay $1,596 per year for MSP, which is 85-per-cent more than they paid in 2001 when the Liberals formed government.
- ICBC basic coverage went up by more than 11 per cent on Feb. 1, 2012. While there was a small drop to optional rates, these changes disproportionately hurt those who can only afford basic coverage.
- Tuition will increase another two per cent on Sept. 1, 2012, pushing post-secondary education even further out of reach for many families. Tuition has doubled since the B.C. Liberals formed government in 2001.
Bruce Ralston, New Democrat finance critic: “British Columbians are very concerned about affordability. They have watched for more than a decade as they have been nickel and dimed by the Liberals to the extent that families are finding it very difficult to balance their family budgets each month. While the Liberals have dramatically increased the daily costs of living for British Columbians, wages have remained stagnant.”