Carbon rebate cheques a surprise to some Albertans

Just a few days into 2017, many low to middle-income Albertans have started receiving rebates to alleviate the costs of the province’s newly implemented carbon tax.

Couples, single parents, and families who earned $95,000 or less in 2015 have started to see rebates come in, as well as single Albertans who earned $47,500 or less two years ago.

However, the money, deposited to some bank accounts on Jan. 5, was met with surprise.

“I was generally confused as to where the money came from,” said Rocky View County resident Hannah Holmes.

“Then I remembered hearing on the news that the government had started sending out rebates.

“I no longer receive GST cheques so I just assumed that the $100 deposit was the rebate.”

This confusion was evident for many Albertans receiving the rebate, including Airdrie resident Amy Larsen.

“I got my regular GST cheque and then saw an extra $100.

“When the money appeared in my account, I looked up the levy and its rebates to see which criteria I fit into,” said Larsen.

While some Albertans, such as Airdrie resident Allen Spence, knew that rebates were to be expected, they didn’t think it would be so soon.

“I knew some of the rebates were being deposited on Jan. 5, so when $100 appeared in my account I just assumed it was because of that,” said Spence.

“It isn’t enough, but it’s a nice gesture by the government.”

The ‘gesture’ is being used by Albertans on a variety of different things, including paying off debt.

“I had to pay off my Christmas purchases,” said Holmes. “The rebate just ended up going on my credit cards.”

Larsen agreed, saying, “I’m either going to put it on my Visa or to groceries.”

Another use for the rebate seems to be going back to something that is being taxed, gasoline.

Lethbridge resident Alyssa Ranger says her $100 rebate isn’t going to give her 2009 Ford F-150 a full tank.

“I still have to drive just as much as before, but now it’s going to cost me a lot more money,” said Ranger, referring to the carbon levy.

Calgary resident Harry Robinson agrees with Ranger, saying “It won’t take me long at four and a half cents per litre to go through my rebate.

“The amount that my wife and I drive, going back and forth from B.C., means the tax is going to affect me more.”

Spence, who commutes from Airdrie to Calgary four days a week, also believed his rebate will go back to the pump.

“I considered putting my rebate towards rent or bills, but with commuting, I put about $40 per week in my gas tank,” said Spence.

“I figured it was a good idea to use it for that purpose.”

As for what Albertans think about the carbon levy and its rebate, the jury is still out.

Robinson, who has taken his concerns about the tax to his MLA, Michael Connolly (NDP-Calgary Hawkwood), says the carbon tax rebate hasn’t been thought out properly.

“In 2015, the price of oil started to collapse so comparing income from 2015 and 2017 will be very different,” said Robinson.

“What happens if someone didn’t qualify because their income was too high in 2015 but should qualify for it in 2017, is that fair?”

For others, such as University of Calgary student Robert Garvin, more government discussion will need to happen before a definitive decision should be made.

“Alberta needs to have a serious conversation about taxes and government spending,” said Garvin.

“I feel that the ‘Green Fund’ money left over after rebates would be better spent by directing that money into general government revenue to cut down on the deficit.

“But really, there is not a better time to bring it in.”

Ranger agrees, saying, “There are definitely pros and cons to the situation, such as possibly helping our economy.

“But it could also hurt those Albertan’s who were already struggling financially.”

If the NDP party wanted to be a good role model and advocate for conserving our energy and natural resources, they didn’t do a very good job right off the bat. – Alyssa Ranger

And yet, even with the prospect of hard times ahead, some Albertans, like Spence, see the carbon levy is the only way to ensure a cleaner planet for future generations.

“The environment should be more important than a non-renewable resource,” said Spence.

“You have to think of the generations in the future and not us in the present. Otherwise, you’re just being selfish.”

About Sara Lester-Vanderheide 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Sara Lester-Vanderheide is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2016-17 academic year.