In response to a letter to the editor from the Nov. 23 edition by Mr. Bob Lee, I am pleased to offer this reply. There has been significant misinformation circulated about the carbon levy from some commentators and politicians who want Albertans to be afraid of the impact of the carbon levy on their households. I know how worrisome it is to hear about higher costs and I want to assure you that the current talk of huge increases to your utility bills is over exaggerated.
Some have suggested that the carbon levy in 2018 will mean a 75% tax on your natural gas, or even a 75% increase to your bill. This is not true. A typical Alberta household could use somewhere around 120 GJ of natural gas in a year, or a monthly average of 10 GJ. That household would see an average increase in 2018 of around $5 per month on average related to the carbon levy.
I know that there are too many families in Alberta who can’t afford even small increases to their monthly expenses and that’s why the carbon levy is paying for rebates to low- and middle-income Albertans. So, for example, a couple with two kids who make up to $95,000 per year will receive $540 in 2018.
In implementing the levy, we’ve been careful to give predictability for Albertans. The amount of levy anyone pays is based only on how much natural gas they use. It has nothing to do with how much the gas costs – the levy is not like a sales tax, where you pay more tax if the thing you buy costs more. Natural gas prices, at present, are at historic lows and because the price of the fuel is so low, the carbon levy can look large relative to the raw price of the commodity.
In the past, Albertans have had to shoulder much greater burdens due to fuel price fluctuations. That typical household that I mentioned before would pay less than $100 a month (on average) for natural gas in 2017, which will still be true in 2018. The average bill over the last decade has been more than $100, as was the case in 2014. And in some years, like 2006, 2007 and 2008, that typical bill was around $150 per month. So, with natural gas fuel prices so low, Albertans will continue to pay less than many previous years for their entire natural gas bill, even with the carbon levy increasing in 2018.
I understand that Albertans are feeling anxious about their energy bills. But I want you to know that we have your back. We have a strong track record of making life more affordable for Albertans, like freezing tuition, lowering school fees, capping electricity rates, cutting the small business tax, and increasing the minimum wage. It’s also important to keep in mind that two pipelines have been approved as a result of Alberta’s action to address climate change.
Alberta’s economy is set to lead the country in growth this year and next, and since June, 2016 Alberta has added more than 70,000 full-time jobs. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the economic indicators are continuing to move in a positive direction.
Banff-Canmore MLA Cameron Westhead