My Cowichan Valley Now

MSP premiums and natural gas rates going down

It’s a late Christmas present for British Columbians.

The provincial government is cutting Medical Services Plan premiums in half starting New Years Day.

Along with the tax cut, the income required for a full exemption to the premiums is increasing by two thousand dollars.

B.C. is the only province in the country that has to pay this flat rate health tax.

Also on January 1st, it will cost more to smoke cigarettes.

The tobacco tax rate is set to increase by 8 cents a cigarette to 24 point 7 cents a smoke.

B.C. businesses will get a break on their hydro bills beginning New Years Day.

They will get a 50 per cent reduction in the PST portion of their bills on January 1st and then on April 1st there will be no more PST charged on non-residential electricity.

B.C. is the only jurisdiction in North America that charges sales tax on electricity used by businesses.

The change is a big win for businesses like pulp and paper mills.

Catalyst says electricity is a significant input cost for pulp and paper mills, accounting for more than 30 per cent of a mill’s production costs.

In 2015, Catalyst paid more than 138 million dollars for electricity, plus an additional 9 point 6 million dollars in PST.

Residential use of electricity is already PST exempt.

Also going down January 1st are natural gas rates.

FortisBC has had rate changes approved by the British Columbia Utilities Commission.

The Utility says there is no mark up on natural gas, the customer pays what the company pays.

On Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast residential customers will see an overall annual decrease of about 15 per cent or 85 dollars.

2018 marks the first year where customers will see common natural gas rates across the province.

This will result in customers paying the same for natural gas regardless of where they live in B.C.