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In a pinch

Jody Vance: BC’s growing affordability crisis has been overshadowed by more immediate disasters – but it’s only getting worse.

On top of all that we’ve been through – COVID, Heat Dome, Atmospheric Rivers, Arctic Vortex, disrupted supply chains and blockaded borders – our fresh new source of stress is on deck: the rising cost of living.

The next big story for BC is how our already expensive corner of the world is getting even pricier.

Bills, taxes, fees, surcharges, fuel shortage, labour shortages, supply chain disruption, rent increases, property values, utilities like heat, water, electricity, telecom. It’s all up.

Also up: me in the middle of the night, worried about the cost of living.

Breathing through my panic over spiking monthly expenses, this week’s Middle is an ask for tangible and realistic solutions from our leaders. We need federal, provincial, and municipal budgeting to reflect the stress of people’s depleted bank accounts and the rising cost of living.

Start with groceries, because they are not optional. What’s worse, inflation is particularly hitting the healthiest aisles. Should there be discussion as to why a BC Hot House cucumber is suddenly $3.00? Seems like there might be some increases that could be curtailed or at least understood with more oversight. When discount big box prices look much more typical of a boutique high end spot, it feels like something is up.

I see grocers reporting vast increases in profits, so are these cost increases needed or is produce the new gasoline?

That’s groceries, but it doesn’t end there. Other day-to-day essentials like FortisBC? Up. Hydro, up. Gasoline, WAY up.

I get that what we pay at the pump is largely at the mercy of international markets, but the plethora of built-in taxes play a major role. Translink levy, carbon tax, infrastructure fees – remember the pre-pandemic hot button issue of embedded gas taxes? With families feeling squeezed, the provincial government could at least consider easing our overall tax burden, including at the pumps.

British Columbians pay the highest gas taxes in Canada:

  • Vancouver: 54 cents per litre
  • Victoria: 47 cents per litre
  • Rest of BC: 41 cents per litre

There is also a 14 cent gas tax embedded within fuel regulation.

With a little creative math there might be room for relief here?

Obviously, taxes are needed to pay for our province to run – but must we perennially be the highest taxed?

Something’s gotta give before the taxpayer’s back breaks. Inflation not seen in a generation is before us. The government coffers are depleted by challenge upon challenge, so with only us as the place to reload, how does this unfold?

If someone suggests that we suck it up and pay every new fee, higher bill, and tax increase as though it’s “just a cup of coffee,” if you happen to live in Vancouver, even THAT went up arbitrarily, in the midst of all the other affordability mayhem.

There seems very little relief in sight for those stretched to the limit, or beyond. Our most vulnerable need a safety net of some sort, some type of protection.

The affordability crisis is very real, and needs a counterattack. Words will not fill the empty coffers, nor the overdrawn accounts of citizens.

There can be no blinders when it comes to addressing the thread many citizens are hanging from – this is where leadership is truly tested. It’s a cliché, but nevertheless true: there is only one taxpayer.

Our shared financial stress sessions are largely focused on simply weathering our next storm, maintaining some sense of stability. It needs to transition from enduring the next increase to planning a way to get it under control.

Like it or not, this issue will be at the forefront. Our leaders need to get ahead of it.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.