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The Alberta advantage?

There are several aspects of last week’s provincial budget that are going to affect a lot of Alberta residents and families, some to their benefit, such as family tax credits, but many more to their detriment.

There are several aspects of last week’s provincial budget that are going to affect a lot of Alberta residents and families, some to their benefit, such as family tax credits, but many more to their detriment.

The government avoided bringing in a provincial sales tax, as doing so in this province would be political suicide. But they are certainly making up for it in other ways (the budget’s near-$5 billion deficit is the largest in Alberta’s modern history)…some increases you could justify, while others are quite frustrating.

The price at the pumps jumped $0.04 overnight March 27, with the province raising its fuel tax from $0.09 a litre to $0.13. Alberta still, however, has the lowest gasoline taxes of any province in the country.

So even though this is a tough pill to swallow, one could accept this move in an effort to bring in some much needed money.

What’s more difficult to accept is the overall price Canadians are paying for a litre of gas.

In July 2014, a barrel of oil rang in at $98US and in the Calgary area, people were paying $1.19 a litre. As of March 30, the price of gasoline was $0.95, while a barrel of oil was at $48.27.

Let’s break this down: Since July 2014, the price of oil has fallen 51 per cent, but the cost we are paying at the pumps has only fallen by 21 per cent.

We always hear that the price of crude is not the only factor in determining the cost of gasoline, which is true, but these excuses do not equate to such a huge discrepancy with what we are paying for gas, and it’s precisely why many in the public do not trust oil and gas companies and why Canadians feel they are getting ‘hosed’ at the pumps.

On to the ‘sin tax.’

The Alberta government clearly wants to take advantage of those who enjoy a beer or glass of wine. Taxes have gone up roughly 10 per cent on alcohol, and also on tobacco.

Raising taxes on tobacco is easy for most to accept. Smoking and/or using tobacco products kills people every day and holds absolutely no health benefits and costs our health-care system millions every year. If you chose to smoke and put yourself and others at risk, then you should pay for that choice…tax them even more.

Drinking a glass or two of wine or beer, however, does have health benefits, and as long as people are responsible consuming alcohol, there are next to no health risks to the consumer or to others.

According to recent news reports, Albertans now pay the highest alcohol prices of any province.

Canadians in general pay some of the highest prices for alcohol in the world.

A Global News report done prior to Alberta’s tax increase on alcohol, indicated that if it weren’t for Quebec, our national average on alcohol prices would be even higher…24 cans of Molson costs $28 in Quebec (over $45 in Alberta).

Albertans will also be paying a lot more for government services, such as driver’s licence renewals, birth and death certificates, marriage licences, etc.

A driver’s licence for example will cost $79 plus registration fees of around $10, bringing the total to $89. In B.C., drivers pay $75 and in Ontario it’s $80 for a new driver’s licence.

Traffic fines will also go up.

Running a red light will cost you nearly $400, while speeding in a construction zone or past an emergency vehicle will be $949.

Mortgage fees are increasing as well, going up four times the amount it was prior.

Those earning over $100,000 a year will be paying between one and two per cent more in income taxes to the province in the coming years. Also, if your taxable income is $50,000 or more, you’ll be paying between $200 and $1,000 for health care once again.

Good news for the Town of Cochrane is that, at least for now, Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding looks to be remaining intact.

The town even received an additional $1.9M earlier this month, as the province said it wanted to continue funding for municipalities’ infrastructure needs.

In the end, it’s reasonable to understand charging Albertans who break the law (traffic fines), chose to put their own and others’ health at risk (smoking) and perhaps even the progressive income tax for those earning over $100,000 (every other province takes a higher percentage of taxes on $100k-plus earners).

But dinging people for getting married, having a glass of wine, buying a home, getting sick, or dying is unfortunate...where’s the ‘Alberta advantage’ in that?