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B.C. hit with tax and fare hikes starting April 1

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April Fools' is bringing more than just practical jokes to British Columbians — the province will be hit with new taxes and fare hikes starting on Saturday.

One of next month's changes will leave many commuters debating on walking or taking public transit due to the federal government's increased carbon prices.

The bump will see carbon pricing go from $50 a tonne to $65, which the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says will account for a spike of over three cents per litre of gas.

Alcohol sales are also expected to climb, although a recent announcement could temper it.

The federal government initially planned to implement a 6.3 per cent increase, but decided to scrap it after receiving backlash from alcohol operators and breweries nationwide. So instead, the spike will be capped at two per cent for a year.

The duties are imposed at the manufacturing level and adjusted annually based on inflation.

National increase aside, BC Hydro says the residential electricity rate will increase by two per cent, or about $2 per month on average, following interim approval by the BC Utilities Commission.

"Last year, we reduced residential rates by 1.4 per cent, and in 2024, we expect to increase rates by 2.7 per cent. Over the three-year period, it works out to an average rate increase of 1.1 per cent per year. This is below forecast inflation in B.C. over this period," said BC Hydro in an email.

BC Ferries is raising fares up to three percent as of April 12.

"We understand the effects of inflation on our customers and did not make the decision to increase fares light," said Deborah Marshall, executive director of public affairs with BC Ferries.

Marshall says fares will increase by 50 cents on major routes for walk-on passengers and $2.35 for passengers traveling by car. Smaller routes such as Swartz Bay to Salt Spring Island will increase by 30 cents with vehicle passengers seeing 90 cent increase.

"A 3 per cent fare increase is necessary to partially cover our rising operating costs like wages and costs associated with major capital replacement projects like the construction of new major vessels and the major terminal efficiency program," said Marshall.

They projected this increase could have been more than three times larger due to inflation.

"It was clear BC Ferries users could face fare increases of 10.4 per cent a year for the four-year period of 2024 to 2028," wrote the province.

The province announced in late February that a $500-million investment in BC Ferries was intended to keep fare increases below three per cent.

One B.C.-based economist said the overall cost increases could impact British Columbians already dealing with financial hardship.

"It's challenging in this current environment with inflation that's, for the last couple of years, been higher than we've seen in decades," said UBC economics professor Ross Hickey.

Alcohol sales are also expected to climb, although a recent announcement could temper it.

The federal government initially planned to implement a 6.3 per cent increase, but decided to scrap it after receiving backlash from alcohol operators and breweries nationwide. So instead, the spike will be capped at two per cent for a year.

"The tax that we have on alcohol is in part to raise revenue but it's also in part because know that alcohol consumption in excess is not part of a healthy lifestyle," said Hickey. "We like to discourage that activity, the same way we like to discourage the overuse of carbon."

The duties are imposed at the manufacturing level and adjusted annually based on inflation.

Hickey adds that the increased carbon tax will likely have a costly trickle effect for anything that requires delivery.

Other additional expenses coming into effect in April will be Stanley Park parking fees.

For the next six months, parking will be an additional dollar per hour or $14.25 per day. For fall and winter parking, it is set at $2.75 per hour and $7.75 per day.  

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