Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gerretsen's Goof

When you read Christina Blizzard's column "Eco fee hoax sticks it to consumers" (St.Catharines Standard, Jul.14, 2010)...

"Don't think of the eco fee as another -- possibly illegal -- tax.

Think of it as a green fee.

Don't think of the HST as another tax grab that shifts the tax burden from corporations to individuals.

Think of it as the Liberals saving the economy.

Don't think of the deposit on liquor bottles as a tax. Think of it as saving the environment

Ditto for the 5¢ you now have to pay for plastic bags. Don't think of it as a massive gift from the government to the retail sector. Not only are they off the hook for the cost of plastic bags, they even built a whole new revenue stream selling cloth bags.

Some retailers even add HST to the fee and are now charging 6¢ a bag.

That's the soothing message the government wants to get out.

And we're all nodding and smiling at the cash register and smugly thinking we're doing our bit to save the world, when what we're really doing is paying the stores for the privilege of shopping at them.

Like so many other government tax grabs, the eco fee on 9,000 consumer goods came disguised as an environmental fee. It was done with such stealth, even the opposition parties seem to have been caught unaware.

But, as QMI Agency Queen's Park Bureau Chief Antonella Artuso reported last week, it may well be illegal. Industry insiders and a prominent tax lawyer all point out the tax is being levied not by the government, but by a third party.

What are the stores doing with this money? What happens to the fee you pay on batteries, fire extinguishers and air fresheners?

"We already pay taxes that help support waste disposal and diversion programs," PC Leader Tim Hudak told reporters Tuesday.

"The notion that it comes from an unaccountable, arm's length body of the government that can tax directly consumers, I reject fundamentally," he said.

In an attempt at damage control, Stewardship Ontario sent out e-mails to "stewards" (you and I call them shops) with hints as to how to hide the tax.

They suggest making the fee part of the price of the goods -- and hoping no one notices.

Here's what they said:

"Our Message: The eco fee is not mandatory nor is it a tax -- stewards have the option to pass the fees they pay Stewardship Ontario on to consumers. ... The eco fee may be reflected in the product's sticker price -- in which case the consumer is none the wiser. Or it may be itemized on the cash register receipt and added to the product price at checkout ..."

So it's a hidden fee charged arbitrarily by these unnamed "stewards."

It's not going to the government or Stewardship Ontario (SO) -- so no one is quite clear where that money is going.

Tuesday night, Environment Minister John Gerretsen released a letter he had sent to SO CEO Gemma Zecchini, expressing, "serious concerns with some overcharging of fees and the availability of accurate information, related to the Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste Program."

Gerretsen said SO must take "quick action" to resolve these issues "and restore consumer confidence."

It's not just the eco fee that has people outraged. It's the sneaky way it was implemented. It's a novel tactic. Introduce a sly eco fee the same day you introduce a whopping tax grab -- and hope no one notices.

Boston had its tea party because people resented paying unfair taxes to a person they didn't know.

Who wants to toss the eco fees overboard?"

... do you wonder HOW COULD IT BE POSSIBLE that no-one at the St.Catharines Standard has been able (or even bothered) to interview local Liberal MPP Jim Bradley on this very issue??!

Where is St.Catharines secretive Liberal Jim Bradley, explaining his Liberal eco-tax fiasco? This Liberal greenshevik weasel has damn VANISHED!!

What's that..? ...oh, yeah, right: Jimmy's got nothin to do with any of this!!!

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