Fed up with fees

Gerry Phelan
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When is a tax not a tax? Perhaps when it’s called a fee, and I’ve had it up to here with them.

I understand we have to pay for the services provided by our governments, but they’ve become really good at reaching into our other pocket to cover expenses that used to be funded by general tax revenue.

The one that’s about to hit us is for 911 service. A provincewide 911 system is expected to be in place by the end of 2014.

It is long overdue and an absolute must.

Some of us have been fortunate enough to have had the ability to call 911 for emergencies for years. Now there’s word that in the spring, the government will bring in legislation to implement fees to pay for the service. We are not the first to do so; a quick Internet search shows other provinces already doing that. Still, paying extra for something we used to pay for in other ways seems wrong.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent was quoted on VOCM on Nov. 9 as saying the fee structure has not been determined, but there will be a charge per landline, similar to how 911 fees are charged to cellphones. He said those fees will be used to implement the service.

I guess we’ve been spoiled, but really, what’s next? A separate fee for having a fire department in our community? Do we really want to break costs down into actual services rendered?

The ability to call for emergency help when it’s needed is not something we should pay extra for. People with cellphones have been paying a 911 fee, but in most cases, that money doesn’t fund 911 call centres. We can probably expect an additional amount to be tacked on, as other provinces have done. Landline users will also pay. Someone joked that perhaps it could be one of those pay-as-you-go deals — if you call 911, you are charged for the call. I wouldn’t like that either.

Latest new tax

In my opinion, this is just the latest new tax.

I’m also not fond of the electronic recycling fee that’s charged when we buy a new television or laptop. I first ran into that some years ago in Alberta. I found a great deal on a printer, and in the land of no sales tax was shocked to be hit with a fee to cover recycling costs.

Now the same thing is applied here; an extra $10 for a desktop computer, seven dollars for a printer, and 40 bucks for a big screen television.

The money is used to fund the program, administering the collection, transportation and responsible recycling of electronics.

Still, when we turn in our older devices, we get nothing for them. In fact, the ads talk about a “free” drop-off location. We used to call that the dump. I’m glad that’s changed, but we sure are paying for it.

One by one, prices increase in the name of the environment. I bought a case of water the other day.

The bottle deposit was more than I paid for the water. (I know. Tap water is free. Well, sort of.)

Now, before you write me off as a careless consumer, I’ve been recycling ever since they brought in the voluntary program in Paradise when I moved here a decade ago. We used to get free blue bags. Now we pay for them and, yes, I still recycle. I’m glad certain things are being kept from our landfills and I trust that our efforts will pay dividends for future generations.

I’m as environmentally conscious as the next guy, but what did we do before we paid bottle deposits, tire levies and environmental handling fees? We still got rid of it and we paid taxes to do so. Now we still pay taxes and we pay fees, too.

I’m tired of the nickel-and-diming. It’s a tax even if it’s called something else. Tax and fee both have the same number of letters.

Organizations: Fed

Geographic location: Alberta, Paradise

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