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The big squeeze

Rising taxes, rising costs, and the impact on the Whistler standard of living

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While most Canadians can weather price hikes for staples like wheat or rice, higher food costs are a disaster for billions of people in developing countries where people are already spending 80 per cent of their income or more on food. It’s being called the Global Food Crisis, and the United Nations is working to get developed countries to more than double their food aid programs this year.

Closer to home, the price of wheat, rice, corn, eggs and other raw foods have already increased by over 20 per cent in January 2008, compared to January of 2007 according to the Financial Post. The Ontario Association of Food Banks is also reporting that the price of the groceries they purchase for their clients has increased four per cent since November 2007.

Again, the price of gasoline — which has increased by over 60 per cent since 2003, and 30 per cent since January — is being blamed for the increases, padding the cost of food production, processing and shipping.

While many of the factors causing these cost of living increases are out of our hands and the result of global events, some increased costs are self-inflicted.

For example, the decision to raise municipal taxes and fees, due July 2 this year, could be considered optional — not in the sense that we could have done nothing, but optional because Council voted to raise taxes and fees instead of cutting costs to make up the projected shortfall. Given the impending Olympics, the real challenges facing tourism, and the amount of development on the books it was probably the right decision, but with all the other increases that families are facing these days there’s no question that it’s very bad timing.

Same goes for the provinces’ decision to impose a carbon tax on July 1 that will add 2.4 cents per litre of gasoline this year, and increase in increments to 7.24 cents a litre by 2012. Those increases are coming at a time when oil and gas prices are reaching new records every month.

Taken together, the costs of living have jumped considerably.

Case Study: Me

Take my situation. I don’t know how typical it is, but I’m married and have a five month old baby at home. I live in a Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) property. I’m currently the only member of the household working while my wife is on maternity leave until the end of the year. We don’t have daycare bills, yet, or any of the other costs that weigh on young families and lead a fairly low key existence.

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