Anew “eco” fee is being applied in Ontario to the price of some products sold that require special disposal. But don’t worry, folks, it’s not a tax—at least, not according to Ontario’s Environment Minister John Gerretsen. The new fee has been applied since July 1 on products like detergents, aerosol cans and fire extinguishers. The fees range from a few cents for some products to up to $6.66 for fire extinguishers weighing more than 5.5 pounds.
The fees are not a tax, according to the hair-splitting minister of the environment, because companies that make or distribute the products governed by the program pay the fees to Stewardship Ontario, a government body regulating the program, and the funds go towards ensuring those materials don’t end up in the landfill.
We can all take comfort in knowing that according to Stewardship Ontario, the eco fee is not a hidden tax grab and an attempt to extort money from struggling families already hit by the egregiously large and burdensome HST. Their website assures us:
“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. As one of the costs of doing business, the eco fee may be reflected in the product’s sticker price—in which case the consumer would be none the wiser. Or it may be itemized on the cash register receipt and added to the product price at checkout. In either case, none of the monies collected in the form of eco fees go to government or Stewardship Ontario.”
To begin with, their explanation is very disingenuous since it states that the “eco fee is not mandatory.” Of course it is. Those paying the fees need not pass them on to the consumer, but it is mandatory for them to pay the fee if it is levied. And just how many will absorb this additional cost of doing business in Ontario do you think?
Here’s my definition of a tax: it’s mandated by the government and I have to pay it one way or another, it’s a tax. And, when it stinks like a tax, it’s almost certainly a tax.
And when it’s quietly slipped in by the backdoor, taking consumers off guard, it’s almost certainly a tax grab.