Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hang onto your wallets here comes the carbon tax!

If you are not already wealthy, get ready for your standard of living to noticeably decline. At both the federal and provincial level governments are now readying a plethora of new carbon taxes designed to make your cost of living significantly higher.

Although we can all tut tut about global warming the fact is that we still need to heat our homes and get to and from work. CIBC recently issued a report predicting that due to market forces Canadians will soon be paying $1.50 per litre for gasoline. Anyone who has bought gas in the United States also knows that we already pay far more in taxes on gasoline than our neighbours to the south.

Which is why it makes less than perfect sense that the Government of British Columbia is now looking at slapping an additional 3 cents a litre carbon tax on every litre of gasoline you buy. Of course for those fortunate enough to live and work in downtown Vancouver or near a Skytrain station there are alternatives to driving a car to and from work. For most other British Columbians there is no alternative regardless of whether or not gas is $1.50, $2.00 or even $3.00 a litre.

If you are a single working Mom you don’t have an extra three hours a day to get your kids to and from daycare, get to work and then pick the kids up from school using public transit. You also can’t get you and your two kids in one of those so called smart cars and if you live in Prince George you need a truck or SUV to deal with winter road conditions.

Anyone using oil or natural gas already knows how expensive it is to keep your house warm and be assured it is going to get much more expensive. Now that British Columbia is a net importer of electricity, you can also expect your electricity bill to start significantly increasing as well.

Now that the move is on to use food crops to produce ethanol and bio-diesel the era of cheap food will rapidly come to an end as well. Couple all this with the already stratospheric cost of housing relative to average family incomes and it isn’t hard to foresee a future where the working poor and middle class in this province are going to experience a significant decline in their standard of living.

Service sector employers are already finding it difficult to find people who will take a job for less than $10 an hour. Unless it is a student living at home with their parents, a senior looking for supplemental pension income or a person whose spouse already makes a very good salary, no one can afford to live on such a wage in BC today.

So if people can’t afford to live on $10 an hour wages, what happens when they need $20 an hour just to get by? That is something that will significantly impact not just private sector but public sector employers as well.

Michael Geoghegan is a government relations consultant living in Victoria and Vancouver BC. He can be reached via his website at