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Op/Ed: Carbon Tax is Leaving British Columbians Cold

We’ve just weathered a record-breaking cold snap in British Columbia and the provincial government was there to tax us for the sin of staying warm.

Prince George endured minus 44 degrees Celsius, Kamloops gritted its teeth at minus 23C, and even the relatively mild Fraser Valley woke up to a pipe-freezing minus 29C with the wind chill. The weather shut down the Trans-Canada Highway with a total white-out at Chilliwack.

There were Vancouverites pushing their Aston Martins out of snow banks. Even the Sky Train shut down for a spell.

That’s Edmonton and Moose Jaw weather, not what most are used to in the Lower Mainland.

What good can be pulled out of the deep freeze? Let’s hope British Columbians take a long hard look at their heating bills next month so they can understand how much they are being punished for staying warm. Heating isn’t a luxury when it’s minus 20C for a week.

More than half of British Columbians use natural gas to heat their homes, a fuel once heavily promoted by government and industry as B.C.’s “clean-burning blue flame” that also keeps most of our hospitals, schools, recreation centres and our greenhouses warm.

We are now heavily taxed for using natural gas with the carbon tax often costing more than the fuel being used.

The B.C. carbon tax is $40 per ton, which costs an extra 7.6 cents per cubic metre of natural gas. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has received household bills from everyday British Columbians and, in every instance, the carbon tax cost more than the fuel.

Ryan from Gibsons used $26.95 worth of natural gas in January and the carbon tax costs $34.56, plus GST, which is a tax on tax.

Jeff in Kamloops used $28.66 of natural gas, with the carbon tax costing $36.75, plus GST.

Just in case carbon tax cheerleaders are muttering about so-called rebates, we should explain how they work or more often don’t work for most people. They don’t apply to average working families and they wouldn’t cover the cost if they did.

In British Columbia, the rebate is known as the Climate Action Tax Credit and it fully applies to single people and families making less than $40,000 per year, maxing out at $399.92 per year for a two person family with two children.

Spoiler alert: The median income for a two person family in B.C. is $80,000. The Climate Action Tax Credit doesn’t apply to them. Even if it did, $399.92 wouldn’t cover their carbon tax costs for heating their homes and getting to work.

As we’ve shown, the carbon tax piles on an extra $35 per month for natural gas. That could easily total between one hundred and two hundred dollars a year.

Now let’s add the cost of the commute for our two person working family.

Let’s say they live in the Fraser Valley, because housing in Vancouver is ridiculously expensive. Let’s say they drive a minivan for ferrying the kids around and a pickup truck to get to the job sites. That’s a 70 litre gas tank on the van and a 121 litre tank on the pickup. With the B.C. carbon tax costing 8.9 cents per litre of gasoline, and our commuter family filling up once a week, they pay an extra $882 per year due to the carbon tax. Then there’s GST on top of that.

Add the commuting cost to the home heating cost, and our B.C. family’s carbon tax could more than double the rebate that they aren’t getting.

Meanwhile, the B.C. government dumps the carbon taxes it collects into general revenue to the tune of $1.7 billion per year.

It’s wrong to punish British Columbians for keeping our families warm and getting to work to earn a living, but the government is doing it anyway.

Kris Sims is the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.