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The big squeeze

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



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For me that means no new bike this year, as well as no new computer, no eating out, and no expensive vacation to Hawaii. My wife and I have temporarily stopped investing in her RRSP (I still invest in mind), and in a separate investment fund that was supposed to force us to save. Soon we’ll also start a Registered Education Savings Plan for our daughter, and we’ll have to contribute about $2,000 a year to qualify for the maximum Canada Education Savings Grant of $7,200.

The bad news is that the price increases are not over. Experts are now predicting $200 a barrel of oil this year, and gas prices over $2 a litre — possibly by the end of the year. Most of out food prices are up because of speculation, and don’t reflect the increase in fuel prices. Future property tax increases may be on the way. B.C. Hydro fees are going up again next year, and the price of propane/natural gas will go up with the price of food.

The good news is that people are being forced to change their lifestyles to accommodate the higher prices, and many of those changes are for the better. More people are riding their bikes to work and taking transit. People are moving back into the city from the suburbs, and finding they enjoy life more without the long commute. People are paying more attention to what they eat, and where their food comes from. Some people are quitting smoking to save money, while families are doing away with the second car.

The higher price of means products made of wood and steel could become hot commodities again, which is good for Canada’s resource economy, while the higher cost of shipping items overseas could also be a boon to our long suffering manufacturing industries.

The high price of fuel also makes the alternatives like wind, solar and hydrogen more realistic, and spurring more investment in renewable energy for homes and vehicles. In the southern U.S., the price of solar energy per kilowatt can already match the price of coal.

And there are always to cut from our budget. My parents didn’t get cable until I was in high school, they didn’t have internet connections or cell phones to pay for. My wife and I already give each other the things we need as birthday, Christmas and anniversary gifts, and are becoming experts at finding things to do on the cheap.

The increased cost of propane and hydro has prompted me to make our home even more energy efficient and draft proof. The increased cost of gas means more long walks and bike rides. The increased cost of food nudges us all to look locally for produce, which means buying more from Pemberton, while gradually weaning people off diets that are overly dependent on meat.