Tag Archives: taxes

HST: One Week In & How It Affects the Little Guy

The provincial government’s disregard for the overwhelming dissent over the HST is no surprise. After all, Campbell has disregard the public in many ways since he took office, arrogantly being above the law even in his drunk driving charge. Let’s not get into all the politics but his minions…I mean ministers, have touted the HST and are now trying to tell us how good it will be, how it will create jobs, how it won’t affect the common person very much at all. So, let’s take a look at how it has affected me in one week.

  • I bought a bottle of wine at the liquor store. The liquor tax is gone and that was 10% but the HST is on there with 12%
  • I went out for dinner with friends. Whereas that used to have the liquor tax of 10% on the alcohol and the GST of 5% on the food, there is now 12% tax overall. I’m not sure I can figure out all the math but that means there is now 7% more tax on food and 2% more tax on alcohol.
  • I worked out at the gym. Whereas that just had GST before, it now has HST, an increase of 7% in taxes.
  • I bought a chocolate bar. This used to have 5% on it but now has HST of 12%. I am firmly opposed to any tax on food, whether it’s a luxury item or junk food because it says only the rich get to eat cake. I guess we could call Harper’s government the Marie Antoinette of era. I just wonder when we can lop off the head.
  • I pay for parking at my job. Now this one is the killer. TransLink, an arm of the provincial government upped all parking taxes (whether monthly parking, part of your apartment, on the street or at your job) from 7% to 21%. They said they weren’t raising the PST because that didn’t stand for provincial sales tax; it stood for parking sales tax, but still an increase of 14% on January 1st. Well, guess what, there are other hidden taxes, plus HST and someone I know who works in the business says that taxes on parking anywhere are now 35.5%! How’s that for a hefty hidden extra tax. If you pay $5 for an hour of parking it will cost you $6.78. Now multiply that by your monthly rate. If you pay $100, with taxes you pay $135.50.

This is just one week’s worth of taxes going up. I’m really really waiting for the provincial government to convince me on how it won’t affect me much and actually bring in jobs. They say it but they don’t say how or where. I’d love to hear how other average people are being affected by this.

Update September: You’ll pay more for postage in BC because of the HST. That’s Canadian postage, which should be the same price across Canada but it isn’t. Candy and other food that hits some esoteric guideline; it’s now double taxed. Keys…need one cut, you’ll now pay more in GST. Did I mention that parking in Greater Vancouver is taxed with 35% taxes? Can’t figure it out; ask your government how PST and GST equals that rate.

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HST? May Be Your Friend

It may be your friend, but not mine. I’m listening to BC’s Minister Colin Hansen giving a good impression of double-speak right now on the radio. When one woman asked him exactly how she was going to save if the industries like mining were for the HST he said how much savings would be passed on to other businesses. Wow. So that’s how that woman is going to save. Just like we all saved and saw prices drop when the GST was put in. Nope. We didn’t.

He likes to say that they’re removing the PST (7%) and putting on the HST (12%), and tries to make it sound like they’re doing us a favor. Food that is now exempt from GST will continue to be but he doesn’t say that food now being taxed (cookies, chips, chocolate bars; those items considered “luxury” items and therefore not for the poor to afford) will now have 12% instead of 5%. A $1 chocolate bar would have cost you $1.05 but will now cost $1.12. Not much but when you start adding up other items it will get costly.

Like buying a new home. Like going to the gym. I now will have to pay both GST and PST (oops sorry, that means I’m only paying HST not two taxes but it equals two taxes) to go to the no-frills community gym.

For restaurants, the minister said a provincial consumption tax is charged in other restaurants but BC and Saskatchewan. So, what does this mean? We’re not being taxed enough so should get more taxes and that justifies the HST. When the GST came in it was supposed to cancel all those other taxes but there has always been the alcohol tax at 10% on your restaurant bill, plus that 7% PST. Or was it GST. Has anyone been able to track how many ways our government taxes us?

The provincial government that Hansen represents plans to be generous now with that new HST coming in onto the  restaurants. They’re so generous they’re lowering the alcohol tax from 10% to 7%; and don’t forget you’ll not be paying 5% on food now but 12%. Plus it’s unclear if we’re paying 12% on alcohol plus 7%. If so, that nearly 20% on top of the cost of alcohol. But let’s say it’s just the one tax on booze and the one super, mega lumped together tax on food. What we have is 12% plus 7% so it’s still 19% plus 15% tips added so you’re looking at a minimum of 34% on top of your dinner, making a bill of $50 going to cost you $17 for a total of $67. But that’s only if taxes aren’t doubled on the booze. If it is, then we’re looking at 19% tax on booze, plus 15% tax on food plus 15% tip on all of that. I wonder how many people are walking around with accountants in their pockets so that they can figure out how much they ow on a bill.

Though Hansen claimed it will affect very few things, and somehow could not name how we would have any savings, he did say that about 25% of British Columbians will get HST cheques that will equal what, $30 per person? I think? I hope I misheard because it will cost more than that in a couple of months. So that’s the low and “some” middle income people, as he said. But not everyone, not most of us.

Consider that every year we have to calculate our income tax and it’s taken off  of our paychecks so most people pay between 20-30% taxes on what they make. But that’s not enough so now we get to pay at least another 15% tax on things we buy. How will this immediately affect you and me? Good question. The government and Colin Hansen have couched so much in doublespeak that it’s not clear. But I can tell you that I’ll be hit the next time I buy a gym pass, when I go to a restaurant, should I buy a cake or a pie, or a new home. Will liquor in liquor stores go down if the alcohol tax is being lowered? I’m kind of doubting it.

I’d love to hear how we will save so much money. When did a tax ever give the working person more money? And I would love to know how they see this as generating new jobs, except for those counting the coffers for the government. And this coming from a government that hasn’t raised the minimum wage in 9 years, and has one of the lowest in the country.

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The Terrible Thing About April

Actually, I quite like April for several reasons. It’s usually spring in one form or another and blossoms and bright colors abound, trees are pushing out tender green leaves, and everything is fresh and new after the winter. Even here in Vancouver, where yes, the grass truly is always green. However, the terrible thing about April is “taxes.”

For Canada, the deadline is April 30. I get to try to get the taxes done before my birthday might come along. Sometimes I’m late and sometimes I’ve very late. Because I’m claiming various professional activities like writing and copy editing, I have to keep all my receipts. I was claiming as a writer long before I started doing copy editing. In Canada, we have this rule that if you’re an artist (pick any art you want) and you don’t realize a profit in your lifetime, but you are trying to sell your work in one way or another, you can claim your expenses.

For writing, this can mean anything to do with art and submitting work to publishers/magazines: software, books, movies, postage, paper, office supplies, etc. I just have to prove, should I ever get audited, that I was trying to make a profit. I do this by keeping rejection and acceptance slips, or the emails. Every once in a while, I weed through those papers and toss out a few, but I keep seven years worth, just in case.

But taxes are still a terrible thing and on the news today they said that Canadians on average are giving away 40% of their income to taxes. So you have to work half your time just to pay the government. And of course, we do our yearly taxes, which includes federal and provincial taxes but on top of that we pay daily GST and PST on top of those taxes. And should you own a house or other property, you have those taxes. It seems as if we cannot turn around without being taxed. And just think, federal tax is not a hundred years old yet. It was put into place by them Prime Minister Borden as a temporary war measures act.

See how permanent temporary measures can be. And even on top of income tax, came provincial sales taxes and then the GST, yet another tax on our pockets. I bet good ole Brian Mulroney told that that tax was temporary too. And imagine this, for centuries countries existed without taxes. Okay, sure they had tithes, and peasants feeding nobles who galloped around in their finery and shot deer for fun. But at least you could have a peasant uprising then. Now, we’re cowed and bleat futility as we pay those taxes.

And then the provincial and federal governments want to combine all those taxes and tax on things so far not taxed. And somehow they say this will make jobs? I’m not sure how except maybe in the tax department.

So…taxes. It takes me three nights to do it, mostly from procrastination. I do my taxes online now, even if I am claiming more than the standard form. Online is faster when it comes to calculations but Quicktax doesn’t always give explanations for those claiming professional and business activities. So I have to remember that I can claim two conventions a year because I won’t find the information there. For someone just starting out to claim artist expenses and using the online system, it might be better to buy their business packet. But I still use the standard and usually manage well. Unless Revenue Canada thinks I’ve miscalculated, which can only really happen if I enter something in the wrong section. And since capital gains and other areas aren’t explained really clearly, it’s not that hard to do.

Still, even with screwing up this year and not putting money into an RRSP, I will still get money back. It’s better to put the money into RRSPs though because it does cut down on money being sucked into the government. Not that you won’t end up paying that tax when you eventually take them out so it’s not really a big savings.

I hate doing taxes like most of us. I hate seeing how much money is sucked away and I can understand why some people go to live on the street or squat because you can work less and still survive. Such a lot of the big wheel moving round and round. I think we have complicated our world too much, but then again would we all want to work in fields growing our food and building our homes from wood? I think we’ve gone too far the other way though and some simplification and less taxation would help. It’s one thing to have services and resources. It’s another thing to be snowed under the avalanche of costs before even being able to hold a roof over your head.

April comes with trepidation and some relief when the taxes are done. For me, that refund won’t be spent until I know it’s accurate, and then it will probably pay down those bills.

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There is No Harmonization to Campbell’s New Tax

Gordon Campbell’s two-faced Liberals want to bring in a tax that they say they had no idea about three months ago. If this is in fact true I’d have to say this party is pretty poor in long-term planning. Long-term planning that raised and then took off a half percent on our PST (2004). Poor planning in giving everyone a pre-election bribe of $100. Poor planning in the Olympics, embroiling our tax dollars into it, and then going, oh gosh it’s overbudget. I could have told them this three years ago.

Was ever a word so misused as to take two taxes and call it harmonization? GST, the government tax, covers many things but not food (unless you’re buying a bag of nachos or cookies because the government decided that was unnecessary. Oh and you can buy two cookies and pay GST but not if you buy six, unless it’s a bag, like a bulk thing. If you figure this out, let me know, but the feds have been taxing our food choices for a long time.) So GST hits many things.

And then there’s PST, the provinicial sales tax. It also hits some things but not always the same things as the GST. Some of the items usually exempt are books, children’s clothing and footwear, vitamins, dietary supplements and food for human consumption. But if you’re at a restaurant that food is charged GST because it’s a service, I think. It’s never made a lot of sense.  Here is a list of what is currently PST exempt (not a full list) but will possibly have the HST on them: PSTexemptions

One glib quote by the Tourism Minister was: “The HST is going to be good for all concerned, but there are going to be exceptions,” intoned B.C. Tourism Minister Kevin Krueger. (seattlepi.com) Hmm, good for all but there are exceptions, like every consumer out there. Basically you and me, unless you’re big business. And one minister said something like, all the provinces have done this HST, except that Alberta, NWT, Yukon and Nunavut have no provincial tax. Only New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia have an HST. That is hardly all of the other provinces by far. And remember, we pay these taxes as we buy things and then when we do income tax we pay federal and provincial tax at that time as well.

Facebook already has over 100,000 members protesting the NO BC HST. A recent poll puts people opposing the HST at 87%. How does the government think this is fair when it’s not even an extra percent we’ll be paying on many items (which include such things as condo fees). It’s not even 5% more, the rate of the GST, which would be exorbitant. It’s 7%, which is more than double. Imagine going out for dinner and you know how a bill for $60 often has an extra $10 of tax on it? Well, that will be now an extra $20 in tax. Will I be going out as much? No. And the same will happen to many people. Or they’ll go out an pay less in tips because of the extra cost. This will of course impact the restaurant and entertainment industry, where people will then be laid off because business has slowed.

Those exempt school books and kids’s clothes? No more. It’s already a shame that we have tax on books and food in any form but you’ll probably not be buying a bag of chips when you’re paying 12% on the price of the bag. Because the government has given warning but not bothered to discuss this first, there is huge backlash. And really what is the reasoning for increasing our taxes by 7% on things? Deficit. Campbell screwed up.

I can’t even get into the fiasco of the Olympics and how so many things weren’t reported on and budgets were not revealed. How many aspects are costing waaay more than anticipated (because they didn’t want to shock the taxpayers)? The City of Vancouver raised the price of their city parking as a way to gather more revenue for their part of the Olympics. Campbell, well he’s not admitting he screwed up, but he’ll just charge us extra so he can pay off the Olympic deficit.

If you want to pay more, sit back and be harmonized. If not, then do everything you can. Complain, contact your MLA and MP. Writer letters. But if you think the protests and petitions will change the tune that Campbell is singing, think again. When he made massive cuts in his first reign, there were 40,000+ people who protested in person, and Campbell just continued scything through jobs. And lest people forget, he tore up union contracts of hospital workers, subsequently causing the cleanliness of hospitals to deteriorate more, and was found by the courts to be in the wrong, but that was years later, even if those people had to be compensated. He probably saved himself a few bucks doing that.

So, I’m just saying, Campbell is very close to all those dictators, who do what they want, trumping it up as “good for the people who don’t know what’s good for them”. And even if the people protest vehemently, it will make no difference. Just watch and see.

Oh and if you didn’t vote in the last election, no matter what you voted, then it’s your fault. With 50% voter turnout it could have changed things, or maybe not. But if you don’t vote you don’t have the right to complain because you didn’t try and do anything about it.

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US Border Security Escapades

Over the years I have gone over the Canadian-US border a lot. With friends in Seattle I’d drive down sometimes several times a month. In most cases, there have been the usual spate of questions by the border guards and away I’d go. Since 9/11 I’ve only been stopped once, which was pretty much the random draw of the lane. Some guards have been big on asking numerous questions, which often contain, where are you going, where are you staying, how long will you be gone, how long have you known your friends, where did you meet them, open your trunk, whose car is this, where do you work, etc. Fairly standard. The following three tales relate some of the more…involved interactions with US border security (who are definitely more tight-assed than the Canadian side).

Incident one really wasn’t a big issue. A friend and I were going down to the US on a sunny Sunday. We noticed that day that there were a lot of Asians and Arabic people. And sure enough we were pulled over and searched at random. However, when we had to go inside and present our ID and answer questions, we noticed the predominance of the aforementioned peoples. I told my friend at that point that it was obvious we were picked just so that US customs could not be charged with racism in their searches. I’d say the ratio was one white person/car to ten people of darker skin types. Interesting when you consider that the border crossings probably have the ratio the other way around with at least ten white people to one person of color going over. This was before we heard much of the phrase “racial profiling.”

Incident number two involved the fast lane border passes. I forget what they were called but they all ended with September 11, and several years later they brought back the passes but call them Nexus now. Because I was going down every weekend I applied for and received the pass. It took months to receive. The first day of using it, which speeds up going through the border when you have nothing to declare, was a Sunday. I picked up my friend and we started on our way down. Now I had an apple in the car that I had been intending to eat and forgot about.

We we arrived at the booth, in honesty I said, I have an apple I forgot to eat (which was most likely a Washington apple anyways). Well, the border guard, you know the type, the ex-arm sergeant who’s bitter that he didn’t get promoted who believes everyone is still a bug that has to be brought into line and brainwashed to OBEY ORDERS tells me to pull over. I got out of the car and said, “Here is the offending apple.”

But, oh no, that was not good enough. We had to go upstairs. I can’t remember whether they searched the car but most likely. We had to stand with all the other boys and girls and wait to get a filled out reprimand form for disobeying the rules of the pass, where I tried to reiterate that I had only forgotten to eat the apple and I had let them know, which was not heard and I was told, another infringement and we will take away your pass. It was my first day of using it, I had been honest about what I had, it was a mistake, but still I was treated like I was one degree short of a mass murderer. 

Shortly after, 9/11 happened and the passes were made null and void. However, they didn’t refund our money for the unused portions. I should say that with the pass, if you bought anything at all, even a pack of gum, you were expected to fill out a claim form to be deposited when you went through the border. The problem with these forms was that the provincial government would then send you a bill for any taxes on the amount spent. Normally, when you buy something and go through the border you have a tax/duty free exemption of a certain amount depending on how long you’ve been gone. This was somehow waived if you used the passes and had to pay more. Which did garner me another search when I bought a bottle of wine and chose to go through the regular lineup rather than pay extra taxes (which defeated the purpose of buying over the border).

Incident number 3 involved going down for the Christmas holidays. It was the morning of Christmas eve and I was planning to stay at my friends in Tacoma, driving down in my Honda Civic. However, we had had a freak snowstorm the night before, with about two-three feet of snow, and I couldn’t get my car out of the parking spot.

I chose to take the bus rather than remain in Canada for the holidays. Over the years I have had streaks of color in my hair: turquoise, blue, purple, red. I’m not sure what color it was then but probably purple. We’re not talking punkified cuts here but long hair with a streak or two. I had a winter coat that was made up of squares of purple, yellow and green. I wore quite a few rings.

When we arrived at the border, we all had to disembark and go through customs. At the counter this hulking black guy started asking questions that went something like this: Where are you going? To my friends for Christmas. What are you going to do there? Eat and sleep and visit. How much money are you bringing down? About $30. That’s not very much. What if you need something. It’s Christmas eve; I’m not planning to shop. The stores will be closed. What if you get stranded or the bus breaks down? I’ll call my friends. What if you can’t reach them? I have three credit cards right here. You could have them maxed out. What are you going to do if you’re stuck? (At this point I was getting angry. I almost said, I’ll stand on the street corner and sell my rings.) My cards aren’t maxed out. I could call my friends or use my bank card. How do I know that you have any money in your account? (I almost said, but bit my tongue, are you asking me all these questions because of the color of my hair? ) Look, I was going to drive down but my car got stuck in all the snow. (Suddenly a look that suggests I’ve just moved one level above bug out to steal US jobs on Christmas eve.) Oh, you have a car? Yes, I couldn’t drive because of the freak snow storm. (And luckily for me.) Here’s a bank receipt from yesterday showing that I have money in my account. Oh, you have money in your account. Okay you’re free to go. Have a nice Christmas. Yeah, right. (What this guy was really trying for was to make me cry so that he could go, why are you crying? Oh, don’t worry, little lady, you can go now.)

I will never ever ever take a bus over the border again. They automatically think you’re an unemployed lowlife. Still, it wasn’t as bad as the woman I sat beside on the way back. She was American living and working in Canada. She said, It doesn’t matter which customs I go through. Watch, I’ll be the last back on the bus. She had to bring bill receipts showing she had an address in Canada because the official letter/piece of paper wasn’t enough. And sure enough they ran her through the ringer before she was allowed back on the bus.

If you’re ever needing good examples of anal retention and people pushing power, the border is a great place place to hang out.

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On the High Horse: Greater Vancouver’s Attitude Toward Transportation

Transportation has always been an issue, but as gas prices bloat and government brings in carbon taxes, toll bridges (the Port Mann bridge is scheduled to have a toll booth, which will slow down the traffic even more) and other measures, all under the guise of being green, it means that people will want to seek alternative means.

Over the years, yes, people have relied more and more on their cars. When I was a child I would walk the ten-twenty blocks to school. These days everyone drives their kids. That’s partly because of the greater fear of predators, not to mention traffic has become exceedingly congested and inconsiderate, making it unsafe for younger children.

Housing prices have become exorbitant so people have to buy farther and farther out and then commute to work. If you live east of Vancouver you have the choice of taking buses; not a time efficient mode. There is the West Coast Express or a combination of SkyTrain and buses. The first is prohibitively expensive for many. But let’s look at using buses and SkyTrain. The farther out you live, the more you pay for a bus ride as the GVRD (now changing their name to Metro Vancouver)/Coast Mountain Bus  have conjointly allowed for the area to be split into zones. Which means you are punished for living farther from the downtown core.

Many people, including me, have opted to continue driving as it was cheaper for gas than a bus pass and more time efficient. Mexico City, with a population of plus 25 million keeps their trains cheap or the city would freeze from gridlock and completely decay from the pollution, which is already extremely bad. Cities like New York have an efficient subway system that runs frequently to all the boroughs and is comparably priced.

Efficiency means reliable. The bus/train system here has suffered from numerous breakdowns, especially in the winter. The stations are filthy and have a high criminal element lurking about. There has been a recent change to the stations with brighter lighting being put in and more security around the platforms. However, the level of filth (dirt, spit, gum, spills) on some of the platforms is still fairly high.

As well, people have been stranded when an overfull bus passes them by and there is no later one running. “Reliable transportation” would include buses running frequently and on time. Somehow the city decided it was a good idea to let downtown clubs and bars be open till 4:00 am if they wanted, but Coast Mountain closes down the SkyTrain just after midnight and the buses become infrequent or stop running to some areas far before most bars close. Incidences of weekend car thefts go up because somebody has come to town to party and find they can’t get home. I’d love to know who was the brainiac that thought that part out.

Taxis are likewise impossible to find on a weekend and would be too expensive to most other cities. Sure you can ride a bike, if you trust the drivers. I don’t, and that’s a story for another day. The public is held by the short and curlies. The GVRD, Coast Mountain and the BC government continue to tax everyone, raise prices of local transportation and add more tolls. They want to encourage us to use less fuel, mostly to garner votes in the “green” category. But where are the viable alternatives? Not enough public transportation that is affordable, reliable, safe and timely leaves people with spending more for not better.

Stress levels will increase, pollution won’t lessen because the green alternatives are missing. In the long run, this is the GVRD’s and the government’s ways of having more money coming in without putting effort in to true alternatives.

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Carbon Tax: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

The latest craze that even the government on all levels has realized brings popularity and kudos, is to go green. From civic to federal governments, this last year we’ve seen such buzz words as “eco, green, carbon tax and environment.”

Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan has been championing his “eco-density” movement as we move closer to an election campaign. For the busy, unthinking or easily duped they hear the word “eco” and will go, Oh it must be good for us and the environment, so I’ll vote Sam. What does it really mean? It’s another word for condo, high-rise and sardine city. Eco-density, like the use of collateral damage to mean dead people, is just disguising the continual downgrading of our living spaces to smaller and smaller areas for higher prices. Oh, but they’ll put a little greenspace outside so that when you’re pressed up against the glass and staring down five stories, you can dream of a previous era where people gamboled in the grass.

The BC government, so good at tearing up contracts and firing hospital workers to the tune of saving money, cleanliness issues and losing lives, who started singing the song of saving our environment has just instituted the carbon tax, to take place July 1. Because, they parrot, it will make people use gas less and think of greener alternatives. Supposedly it will affect every use of fuel, including those who have to heat their homes this way. It will include gas, diesel and natural gas. Much better to let those little old people with their thinly insulated skin shudder away and wrap up in old blankets. Then the government can say, well look at them; aren’t they doing a great job.

The carbon tax makes no sense. It’s like saying, oh people are buying too much food, so we’ll raise the price of food. The rich will just pay more and the poor people will eat less and starve. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were cheap, viable and environmental alternatives. But there aren’t. A hybrid car is already more expensive than a gas-powered car. But the federal government was giving a $1000 rebate should you buy one. The price was still more than a cheaper gas car and the government decided it sends a better message to get rid of this rebate.

Bus/SkyTrain transportation is so expensive that it was still cheaper for me to take my car to New Westminster from Vancouver than to take the bus and its requisite hassles (not reliable, not always on time, strange, sometimes dangerous street people). I’ll have to check again but the green alternatives aren’t there. Those buses still spew gas. Electric or hydrogen buses would be better. Vancouver has been testing one fuel cell bus that I know of.

Alternative fuels or making the gas and oil companies change the composition in the fuels could help. There is ethanol for one, though it has its own issues. Putting better systems into new cars for fuel and emissions also could help but I don’t know how much can be done there or how much research has been done. I’d like to hear about it though and the government isn’t chatting about all the green alternatives they’re offering or looking into.

Perhaps the government thinks it’s a frivolous option for people to go to work. There are many smaller areas and farm communities where people must drive to go anywhere. It really doesn’t help them and punishes them. Not to mention, the truck drivers that haul goods and food across the country are doing us a service. Perhaps they should stop driving too. Oh no, of course not; the price of everything will just go up. And try to sell a car right now so that you can go green: you can’t.

Should I even mention that this does nothing for the existent problem of pollution and greenhouse gases and it’s the least effective (energetic) way of implementing change. I’d like to know what the tax money will go to except lining government coffers. Bringing in better mass transportation and alternatives would make the carbon tax more feasible if it was actually applied to the big users. If even the little people, the poor people and those who have no choice are punished, it just means that in the end as always, the poor will get poorer and the rich will just continue to pay more to consume the same amount. And the government will sit back like a fat cat and lick its chops.

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