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Who’s to Blame for Higher Eco Fees?

11 April 2013

Higher eco fees, effective across Ontario next month, were quietly announced on an industry-leader’s website; but it didn’t take long for provincial political leaders to pounce on them, saying that they’re just yet another tax grab by the Liberal party. Of course no one wants higher eco fees; but who’s to blame for them when there’s an increase?

It was the Ontario Electronic Stewardship that announced on its website that eco fees would be going up on certain products, effective May 2013. These are the fees that you pay any time you buy any kind of electronic, whether’s it a new smartphone, a new computer, or an alarm clock.

According to the announcement, fees on televisions larger than 29 inches will go up to $39.50 from its previous $27.60; while fees on other items, such as home theatres in a box will decrease to $7.10 from $7.80.

There are lots of problems with the new fees. One is that the public was given almost no knowledge of it, except for a discreet announcement on a website that few probably ever visit. The second is that it seems to be a cash grab on the part of the Liberal government; and the third is that said government is trying to put the blame on someone else.

“Clearly this is another Liberal tax grab that has no grounding in reality,” says Opposition Leader Tim Hudak.

“Any time taxes go up it’s going to cause people to look to purchase elsewhere. You’ll see folks looking to go across the border.”

But the Liberals defend themselves by saying that it’s clearly not a cash grab, as they don’t even receive revenue from it. The government doesn’t set the fees, nor do they profit from it. The organizations that do would be the industry-led stewardship agencies.

The New Democrats aren’t buying the argument.

NDP environment critic, Johan Schein, says,

“Instead of taking responsibility for it, they’ve off-loaded responsibility to industry-led organizations and we need proper government oversight that can set enforceable targets and hold producers responsible,” he says.

Mr. Hudak agrees.

“When [critics] hear that the industry is doing it and the Liberals are hands off on these eco taxes, they’re rightly calling bull on that one,” he says. “The Liberal approach under (former premier) Dalton McGuinty and now Kathleen Wynne is just a tax grab for an expensive bureaucracy.”

But it’s not just electronics that are getting more expensive. Two weeks ago fees also went up substantially for off-road tires used on some farming equipment. These fees start at $352.80 per tire for smaller tires, and a hefty $1,311 for larger tires.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has said that there “will be conversations” between the government, the industry organizations, and farmers to see what can be done to bring these fees down.

Undoubtedly, that’s going to lead many to ask why those same conversations can’t be had about the eco fees placed on electronics.

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