Mixed reviews on carbon tax impact

Richard Froese and Joe McWilliams
For the Lakeside Leader

It’s tough to calculate the entire impact of the carbon tax. But where direct cost increases on fuel are concerned, municipalities are paying attention and budgeting accordingly.
The Town of Slave Lake, for example, spent $26,000 extra on natural gas in 2017 and is budgeting for $39,000 in 2018. On fuel for its vehicles, the hit in 2017 was $8,000, and this year it’s expected to jump by another $4,000.
Add the two 2018 increases together and it’s roughly equal to .75 of one per cent of the total taxes.
According to High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk, town taxpayers were hit with a cost of about $27,000.
“Approximately half of that amount was from the recreation department,” he says, “mainly for heating the arenas and swimming pool.”
Panasiuk figures the hit to High Prairie taxpayers will rise to around $45,000 this year.
However, the cost in the first year was much lower than administration predicted.
“We didn’t get hit as hard as I thought we would,” says Town of High Prairie CAO Brian Martinson.
Big Lakes County didn’t keep records of the cost increases specific to the carbon levy, but reeve Ken Matthews says, “Any increase to taxpayers is not good.”
Panasiuk notes that an indirect cost of the carbon tax is that it takes one employee one day a month to track, collect and remit the carbon tax to the provincial government on behalf of the gas department that sells natural gas.
“We also know that businesses may have passed on some of their costs to consumers, like the town,” he says. “This is an indirect cost that is difficult to quantify.”
Vance agrees with that.
“Indirect carbon tax costs for power, transportation, goods and services are hidden and more difficult to evaluate.”
Implemented on Jan. 1, 2017, the initial levies were set for gasoline at 4.49 cents per litre, diesel at 5.35 cents per litre, propane at 3.08 cents per litre and natural gas at $1.011 per gigajoule.
For 2018, the levies jumped on Jan. 1 for gasoline to 6.73 cents, for diesel to 8.08 cents, for propane to 4.62 cents and natural gas to $1.517 per gigajoule.
Panasiuk trusts that local businesses benefited from carbon levy rebates to customers.
“We know that many of the residents of High Prairie will have received the carbon levy rebates,” he says. “It is likely that some of the local businesses will have benefited from the residents spending this rebate locally.”

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