The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Friday, February 07, 2003

Hidden Tax Alert!

B.C.'s government has raised a bevy of user fees and introduced a host of fees where there had previosly been none in advance of this month's provincial budget. Competition, Science, and Enterprise Minister Rick Thorpe admitted that the new fees will raise an additional $23.3-million annually, but Thorpe insists that these new fees are not a tax grab.

Most British Columbians will be affected by the fee hikes. Driver's licence fees will increse from $40 to $75, while the cost of hunting and fishing licences will also go up in addition to previously announced fee hikes at provincial parks. The government, which had pledged to reduce the burden of government on business in BC, has not exempted businesses from increased fees. Criminal record checks of prospective employees used to be free to employers; they will now cost $20 per search. The price of business registrations has gone up, and industries such as forestry face even more new levies.

Thorpe, however, is sticking to his line that this is not a tax grab.

"Fees are not taxes and should not be levied uniformly across the taxpaying population," Thorpe said in a press release. In a scrum after this moning's Cabinet meeting, a reporter challenged the minister on his assertion. "You're increasing taxes," said the reporter. "No, we're asking users to pay more for the services," said the minister.

'Taxes, fees, it's all the same. Government taking more money out of the economy.'

That was the line spouted by groups such as the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) during the tenure of the previous NDP government. Every increase in fees on businesses or on individuals was decried as a secret tax grab by those special interest groups. Now, the criticism is muted at best. Today's press release from those "fearless tax foes" was not terribly critical; in fact, it praised the government! The headline screamed 'CTF Applauds Reduction of Regulatory Burden' and praised the government for relying on more fees to generate revenue.

Your scribe has been left puzzled by all this. He guesses that consolidating fees from many to few categories and then raising those fees is now a reduction in regulatory burden in CTF newspeak (as opposed to being a hidden tax). I suppose that this might have something to do with the CTF's double standard when it comes to left-leaning versus right-leaning governments, something that has been obvious since the CTF praised the Liberals for boosting the salaries of senior bureaucrats in 2001.

The CTF's B.C. talking head, one Victor Vrsnik, is calling on the government to reduce income taxes in the upcoming budget by $23-million to offset those fee increases. Don't hold your breath, Vic. This government is in a serious deficit situation and is going to get its money any way it can, and in any way that doesn't involve reversing the income tax cuts that they brought in in 2001.

So, here's a question for Finance Minister Gary Collins: Will you finally admit that David Bond was right?
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