Gas station in Surrey shows soaring prices in B.C. in recent weeks. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

Taxes go up on fuel, booze and cigarettes on April 1

Some ferry riders get a break, B.C. Hydro rates rise 3%

April 1 is a taxing time for B.C. residents, and as of this Easter, nowhere is that noticed more than at the gasoline pump.

With gasoline prices climbing above $1.50 a litre amid fuel shortages and protests against expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that delivers crude oil and refined fuels to B.C., the first carbon tax increase in seven years takes effect.

The carbon tax goes from $30 to $35 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, or 1.2 cents per litre of gasoline, bringing the total carbon tax to about eight cents on a litre of fuel. It’s the first of a series of increases agreed to by the B.C. NDP and Green Party to form a minority government, a 66-per-cent increase over four years.

For Metro Vancouver, with a seasonal shutdown of the only remaining refinery in Burnaby and B.C.’s only supply pipeline at maximum, gasoline prices could top $1.60 per litre in the coming weeks, an all-time high.

In Greater Victoria, the regional gasoline tax goes up two cents per litre, the first increase in a decade, approved by the province to finance increased transit service. Including federal, provincial and local taxes, governments collect 43 cents on a litre of fuel in Greater Victoria.

There is a bright spot for some ferry users. Free ferry rides for seniors come back into effect this month, for passenger fares on Monday to Thursday sailings only, fulfilling an NDP election promise from last year. And a 15-per-cent reduction in fares on minor routes also takes effect April 1. Fares on the major Vancouver Island routes are frozen for this year.

The B.C. NDP government tried to freeze B.C. Hydro rates for 2018, but that was turned down by the B.C. Utilities Commission in March. B.C. Hydro rates go up three per cent as of April 1, as planned in the previous B.C. Liberal government’s 10-year rate plan.

RELATED: B.C. Hydro rate freeze refused

Alcoholic beverages are hit with a 1.5-per-cent increase in federal excise tax, and that’s just the start. The Justin Trudeau government’s 2017 budget introduced a new “escalator tax” on beer, wine and spirits, which builds in automatic annual increase based on inflation.

“Tax increases are a political choice, and politicians who make that choice should be transparent about it each and every time, rather than bury it in a legislative formula,” said Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.

Smokers also get the inflation-based tax treatment. The 2018 federal budget included an increase in tobacco tax, plus an inflation increase. Together those increases translate to 22.9 cents more per pack of 20, and that’s before the latest provincial increase.

The B.C. government budget adds 56 cents in tax to the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes, effective April 1. That brings the total provincial tax to $5.50 per pack, with federal excise tax and provincial sales tax on top of that.

It’s the second provincial increase this year. B.C.’s tobacco tax went up 16 cents per pack on Jan. 1.

And as for home inspection licences, it now costs just under $200 more for a new licence, and $136 more to renew. The Home Inspectors Association B.C. said earlier this year the increase will most likely translate into more costs for the home buyer.


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