Wednesday, 18 January 2017 11:31

Be engaged, especially when it comes to the new Alta. carbon tax

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For some, there are more questions than answers when it comes to Alberta’s new carbon tax which came into effect Jan. 1.

Opposition Wildrose MLA Drew Barnes, who represents Cypress Hills-Medicine Hat, has been inundated in his office by people expressing concerns and looking for answers to their questions. He said last week, when talking about the new tax during a Facebook live event, that in the last four and a half years as an MLA this is the issue that people seem to be most concerned about.
Obviously not a fan — he called the carbon tax the largest tax grab in Alberta’s history — Barnes encouraged those watching to share their concerns with the NDP government.
It’s early days really when it comes to just what kind of effects will be able to be attributed to a carbon tax in Alberta. Even before the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, some people were trying to blame business closures on the carbon tax. Others question how rebates can be handed out so soon, as cheques started rolling out the second week of January, when the tax didn’t even start being collected until Jan. 1.
Information about the carbon levy is available on the provincial government’s website, where it claims, “Alberta’s carbon levy provides a financial incentive for families, businesses and communities to lower their emissions. Economists agree that a price on carbon is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions. It drives innovation and changes behaviour by encouraging individuals and businesses to become more energy efficient and shift away from higher emission fuels.”
Again, the jury will have to remain out about this until almost a full year passes and the true effects of a carbon levy are known.
What is a guarantee is if there’s ever a time to be politically engaged it’s now. Albertans need to express their concerns and ask their questions. They need to let others share their stories, but at the same time read everything they see and listen to everything they hear with some discernment.
Question additional costs that are being added to your bills to ensure they are legitimate expenses. Unfortunately there are some people out there who will use a carbon tax to their advantage. Earlier this month, a family near Calgary complained that the cost of cremating a loved one with a funeral home from Calgary cost them an extra $100. On the bill it stated that amount was attributed to the carbon tax. Government officials were quick to point out that the additional costs for a cremation in terms of the carbon tax should be no more than $4. That’s quite a mark-up and it’s unclear who to believe.
Funeral homes in Medicine Hat were contacted by local media, and most said they are taking a wait-and-see approach to the carbon tax. They want to gain a better understanding of what the increased costs are, before passing them on to clients.
Frankly, this is good business. Tacking extra charges on to goods and services just because it’s convenient to be able to blame the provincial government’s carbon levy isn’t good business. It amounts to nothing more than a second cash grab — what some are accusing the provincial government of doing.
Let’s also not forget that the provincial government, in order to help businesses with the increased costs of a carbon levy, reduced the small business corporate income tax rate by one-third from three to two per cent effective Jan. 1. How this benefits small businesses isn’t clear this early in the year.
Sometimes the best way to get answers is to pose the right questions and be patient.
At the same time, we need to make sure the government knows whether we’re pleased with what they are doing with our tax dollars and we don’t have to wait every four years to do so.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor