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The big squeeze

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



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B.C. Hydro also increased its rates, which are still among the lowest in the country, by 6.56 per cent on Apr. 1. A second increase of 8.21 per cent will be phased in on Apr. 1, 2009. B.C. Hydro estimates that it will tack on about $12 per month to the average hydro bill.

By registering at the B.C. Hydro website and looking at my own account history, I’ve figured out that I spent about $150.77 every two months on hydro last year. Based on those numbers the first hydro increase will cost me an additional $9.89 every two months, or just under $60 a year, while the 2009 increase will tack on another $12.37 every two months, or $74.22.

In other words, by this time next April I’ll have spent an additional $60 on hydro. By the same time the following year I’ll have spent an additional $135.

Adding that to the running tally, we’re now up to about $797 a year or $66.41 a month in increases.

If the increases ended there most of us would shrug — $66 is the cost of a lunch and beers for two once a month, a month of digital cable with HDTV, a tank of gas, three to five hours’ work.

But it doesn’t end there, with shelter and warmth. We all have other costs of living, and they’re going up as well.

Next to housing, the second-biggest expense for most Canadians is the cost of owning a car. My wife an I own a very fuel efficient Ford Focus station wagon, which we specifically picked because it was on the top-10 list for fuel economy by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and there was room for two bikes in the back.

Gas prices have increased about 62 per cent in Canada since 2003, padding the cost of ownership by about $800 a year for the average family. However, the most significant increases have come in the past six months.

The average price of a barrel of oil almost doubled from July of 2006, when it was $69.97 U.S. to an average of $117.40 U.S. in May 2008.

Pump prices went up 17 per cent in Canada from May 2007 to April 2008, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and didn’t exactly bottom out in April.

The low gas price this year was $1.06 in January, according to Natural Resources Canada, but last week the price had increased to $1.46 in Whistler.