Families in British Columbia may have a little less money in 2014 with fees and rates increasing for a number of services.
MSP — The provincial Medical Services Plan is increasing on Jan. 1, 2014, with the price for an individual going up to $69.25 per month from $66.50. The monthly cost is $125.50 for a family of two (up from $120.50), and $138.50 for a family of three or more (up from $133.)
Low-income British Columbians making under $22,000 a year are exempt, with discounted fees for everyone under $30,000 a year.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has called MPS premiums “grossly regressive” because everybody pays the same regardless of their earnings — and public employees and most higher-income earners have the payments included as part of their compensation packages. The CCPA have suggested scrapping the tax, and making up the $2.2 billion in provincial revenues through tax increases in all provincial income brackets, while adding two new brackets for higher earners.
They noted that a family of four with an income of $60,000 currently pays more in MSP than provincial taxes, $1,526 versus $1,190. As well, while the province has been raising MSP fees — up over 85 per cent since 2000 — they have also been cutting income taxes for families.
BC Hydro — BC Hydro rates will go up nine percent on Apr. 1, 2014, followed by increases over the following four years that add up to a total increase of 28 per cent. According to B.C. Hydro’s numbers, the average increase in the first year is about $96 per family, going up to $300 a year by 2018. It’s been pointed out that the cost of goods and services will also likely increase as a result of higher hydro rates, so the cost of the rate increases will actually be higher.
Energy minister Bill Bennett has suggested that rates could continue to increase past 2020, with increases of roughly 2.5 per cent per year after the first five years. If so, that adds up to a 40 per cent increase in a decade.
Although the NDP predicted a shortfall at BC Hydro that would need to be addressed, they took the ruling Liberal Party to task for downplaying the problem and the size of the rate hikes in order to win the last provincial election.
ICBC — The Insurance Corporation of B.C. requested a 4.9 per cent rate increase for basic insurance for Nov. 1, 2013, which was approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission. However, it’s been reported that a cabinet review of ICBC will request an additional increase in summer of 2014, on top of the 4.9 per cent. ICBC is blaming a jump in injury claims for the rate increase.
Strata — Locals living in strata complexes may have already seen a jump in monthly fees, but if not expect higher rates with changes to B.C. Strata Property Act coming into effect Jan. 1. The result of the new act is that stratas now need to file detailed depreciation reports with the province at their own expense, including a 30-year budget for repairs and upgrades. Stratas will likely need to increase fees to cover expected depreciation costs for common spaces like roofs, hallways, elevators, lobbies and common rooms in order to defray future repair and replacement costs.
The amount of the increase will depend on the strata, but when the changes were announced it was noted that B.C. stratas were putting 10 to 15 per cent of fees into contingency funds, compared to an average of 25 to 30 per cent in the U.S., where depreciation requirements are already in place.