Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Eco fees go bye-bye for now

It seemed like a good idea at the time ... Ontario imposing a mandatory levy on many of the items we use to help fund safe waste disposal.   Ranging from a few cents for a bottle of liquid dishwash soap to over $6.50 for a fire extinguisher.   While a number of retailers had been doing it voluntarily -- Walmart had been for over a year for hazardous products like motor oil and solvents -- the product range became much larger and the fees mandatory from July 1st.

But like the health tax, the Greenbelt and the HST, it's not the concept but how it was implemented by the Ontario Liberals.   Coming on the same day as the introduction of the combined tax, the eco fees were seen by many, rightly or wrongly, as a "tax grab" -- except that the money wasn't going to the government but a pro-business entity calling itself "Stewardship Ontario."   Outsourcing the collection of this money -- which was expected to raise over $200 million per year -- was just as boneheaded as when the BBC several years ago hired a private firm to do the dirty work of ensuring TV license compliance.   Worse even biodegradable and other "safe" products were being charged the fee, wrongly.  Othe retailers just were totally caught by surprise -- some drug store chains hadn't updated their cash registers for this contingency.

Yesterday, after Canadian Tire ™ said it was no longer going to charge the levy, Dalton McGuinty did a complete about face and said the eco fees are suspended, until they figure out better how to impose it -- or even if a third party outlet should even have the authority to be able to do this.  I don't recall this being voted on in the legislature -- I thought revenue raising of any kind is done by the government and that this can't or should not be outsourced

What would be a better way?

Oh let's see ... clear labelling on the price cards on shelves (either saying the amount that is included in the price, or what fee will be added at checkout)?   Giving people the option of either having the fee directed to industry or to local environment projects?   Actually having a public debate rather than burying it on page 300 of a little-read briefing book?

Can we use the word "Schmuck" here?   We should of course be making responsible choices at stores large and small.   But isn't it also the responsibility of business to give us more choices and to clean up their own messes rather than pass a steath tax onto us?

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Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how many Federal Liberals really understand how much McGuinty is hurting their chances. Its almost a perfect storm for Harper. Its almost impossible right now for rural Ontario to vote Liberal federally while McGuinty is in office. Ironic eh. billg

Anonymous said...

"It seemed like a good idea at the time.."

To whom?

The problem isn't just a disorganized government taxing products willy-nilly. Lawn seed?

Municipalities are already charging to dump hazardous waste. As a result I bet that some people are dumping the stuff in regular trash.Where I live paints, solvents etc. are free to dump.

They wanted to charge me $6.00 fee or so for a fire extinguisher. I doubt the one I have cost that much in the first place.

It is sheer lunacy.