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Albertans face double whammy with fuel and carbon tax increase

Posted on April 25, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Delon Shurtz
Southern Alberta Newspapers

Now would be a good time for the provincial and federal governments to say “April Fools,” and immediately reverse the increases to the fuel and carbon taxes.

Unfortunately, the increases April 1 to the provincial fuel tax and federal carbon tax were not April Fools jokes, and Canadians will continue to struggle under the burden of rising costs, says the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“Unfortunately folks are getting a tax hike double whammy, both from Ottawa and from Edmonton,” says Lethbridge-based Kris Sims.

The most significant increase is to the federal carbon tax, which has gone up $80 a ton. That’s 17 cents on a litre of gasoline, 21 cents a litre on diesel, and 15 cents per cubic metre of natural gas.

“You do the math, that is now costing people around $12 or $13 extra per fill up of their minivan,” Sims says. “That’s just in the carbon tax, that’s not including the GST or any of the other taxes. If you’re filling up a light duty pick-up truck, that’s around $17 or $18 extra.”

Truckers are the hardest hit.

“A trucker filling up his big rig is now going to be paying around $200 extra to fill up with diesel.”

According to the parliamentary budget officer, the carbon tax will cost the average family in Alberta $911 this year, even after the rebates are factored in. In addition to the increased carbon tax, the province also increased its fuel tax to 13 cents a litre from nine cents.

“It’s one of those head-scratching moments, because Premier Danielle Smith has just been a rock star taking (Prime Minister) Trudeau to task over the federal carbon tax. Like hammer and tongs, she’s not ever backed down on it, she keeps on calling on him to scrap the carbon tax.”

Sims says Smith and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe have, of all of Canada’s provincial leaders, been the biggest fighters of the carbon tax.

“So that’s why it’s kind of one of those puzzling moments where the provincial fuel tax in Alberta has also gone up now, on the same day.”

To be fair, Sims says, the fuel tax was previously 13 cents a litre, but the government suspended it for more than a year. Then it was raised to nine cents a litre for gasoline and diesel, and now again up to 13 cents.

“We’re getting two tax hikes at the fuel pumps on the same day, and so it’s pretty frustrating.”

Sims says the government’s rationale for the provincial increase is simple: “They need the money.”

The Federation of Taxpayers is going to “push back” on that, however, and Sims points out the increase isn’t to help build and maintain roads, which is what Albertans were told in the 1980s. Sims says that during the budget presentation, the government announced a $200 a year new tax on electric cars, and then made a rather strange admission.

“They said right in their parlance, in the budget, they said, well, we don’t use the provincial fuel tax to maintain the roads, but we’re still going to charge you a new tax for electric cars.”

The taxpayers federation also remains unconvinced that the provincial government has done all it can to keep taxes down.

“We’re not convinced they have rifled under every couch cushion, budget-wise. They could keep it even at nine cents per litre…for the next six months, and still save people hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Sims also questions the province’s spending priorities.

“Why are they funding an NHL rink for superstars with the Calgary Flames? Why not get that mega-million-dollar team to do it themselves? Why are they putting out hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare? There’s room in that budget for them to trim.”

Sims adds, however, that despite some poor spending priorities the province has balanced its budget and is keeping spending in check. The spending increase is below the rate of inflation plus population growth, and the province is doing relatively well, especially when compared to neighbouring provinces.

“We’re quite happy, provincially speaking, with what they’ve done with the budget, but again, it’s one of those moments where you’re like, I want to cheer you on for fighting the carbon tax federally, but why are you picking my pocket with the other hand on the same day?”

Sims says even though what the provincial government has done is simply wrong,she aims most of her fire at the federal government.

“I’m not absolving the Alberta government of everything, but economically speaking, they’re doing a pretty good job. But as far as the cost of food goes, the cost of everything going up, that is largely the federal government’s fault.”

Sims points out that during the COVID pandemic, while Canadians were losing their jobs and the cost of everything skyrocketed, federal politicians continued to receive pay raises.

“They never blinked, not once. They’ve taken the pay raise every single year, automatically, actually on April 1, as well. That is wrong for them to do.”

Sims says Canada’s politicians are the second-highest paid in the world, only behind the U.S., and Trudeau earns about $400,000 a year and gets his mansion, driver, food, heat and travel expenses paid for. And while inflation can be blamed for the rising cost of food and everything else, the government has caused the inflation.

“They printed, I think it was around $300 billion, out of thin air during the last few years. Anyone with a bit of economics understanding knows that if you have too many dollars chasing too few goods, while you’ve locked down the production of said goods; if you have too few things rolling off the assembly line while you suddenly print a whole bunch of money, bam!, you’ve got an inflation crisis, which is exactly what we’re dealing with right now, and that is the fault of the federal government.”

Sims says the carbon tax adds to the inflationary fire, particularly with goods, services and food. For people who think the increase in carbon tax won’t affect them because they only drive small vehicles and will only have to pay a few extra dollars at the pump to fill up, think again.

“Pretty much everything we eat and use – look around where you’re at right now – has been on a truck. Trucks run on diesel. That trucker filling up the big rig is spending 200 bucks extra on the carbon tax. There’s your layering.”

Farmers, who receive some exemptions for such things as diesel for their tractors, still use natural gas and propane in other aspects of their operations and are paying thousands of dollars in carbon tax.

“There are your hard production costs, being nailed by the carbon tax.”

Sims says seven out of 10 provincial premiers, including the Liberal premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, are telling Trudeau to freeze or scrap the carbon tax, and about 70 per cent of Canadians want the same thing. And despite claims the tax is to help reduce global emissions, it’s not.

“Canada, God forbid, could cease to exist tomorrow and it wouldn’t make a dent in global emissions.”

Sims says Canada emits about 1.5 per cent of global emissions, while India’s population of 200-300 million people, burns wood and animal dung every day for heating and cooking.

“That is super, heavy duty emissions.”

Sims says India, who is a trading partner with Canada, is “begging” to purchase natural gas from Canada, which would drastically reduce its global emissions.

“That’s like a win-win. But no-body’s winning when we’re making our food and our heat more expensive here in Canada.”

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