Opinion

LETTER: Carbon tax rebate program unfair

To the editor:

On July 1, 2008 the British Columbia government introduced a “revenue neutral” carbon tax.

Since that time, we have been paying a carbon tax levy on a number of items, the main one being every litre of fuel we use.

On July 1, 2011, this tax was increased to 5.56 cents per litre, which adds about $3 to $5 every time you fill your vehicle’s tank.

People concerned about protecting our environment supported the program.

The problem is that this tax was imposed before any well planned programs to reduce carbon emissions were in place and so revenues built up.

The only real program has been the rapid transit system on the Lower Mainland, but to date, there is no evidence to show that this has reduced automobile traffic in the Vancouver area.

In January, the provincial government announced a $200 increase to homeowner grants for all B.C. residents outside of the Lower Mainland and Victoria as a means of rebating this tax.

This means that anyone not receiving the provincial government homeowner grant did not receive a rebate.  This includes renters, all residents of First Nation reserve lands and, of course, visitors to B.C.

There are now 9,000 non-native residents living on Westbank First Nation  land, in about 3,500 residential properties.

There are 35 First Nations in B.C. with non native residential properties. They were all excluded from the rebate program.

Since the rebate was announced, there has been a lot of discussion with the B.C. government about the inequity.

It has been a major issue for the advisory council to the WFN, representing non-native residents living on WFN land, the chief and council of WFN and the First Nations Tax Commission, which represents all 35 First Nations with non native residents.

There have also been letters from individuals affected by this inequity.

On Sept. 29, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon turned down the request.

This means that those of us living on First Nation land are subject to a tax that recycles money out of our pockets into someone else’s pocket.

Is this the purpose of the carbon tax?

The current rebate program is totally unfair and inequitable.

If the government does not have programs designed to reduce carbon emissions, why collect the tax?

If it is going to refund it, why only refund it to B.C residents eligible for the provincial home owner grant? Are we, residents who live on WFN land, second-class citizens?

The cost of providing this rebate to residents on WFN land would be approximately $485,000.

The cost for all BC bands with taxing authority is probably less than $1 million, as many of the other 35 bands are in the Lower Mainland area and are excluded from the rebate program and other bands have much smaller non-native populations.

My view is that we should get rid of this tax until there are real programs designed to reduce carbon emissions.

This tax is currently being collected under false presences.

 

Chris Hansen

West Kelowna

 

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