Ontarians were surprised to discover that they are being charged more for products after July 1st, thanks to a new ‘eco-fee’.
The eco-fee is charged as a way of recouping the cost of handling waste from products, packaging and containers.
Every municipality in Ontario charges property taxes, part of which pays for the collection and disposal of household waste. Simply put, the eco-fee is double-dipping, making consumers pay again for a service they already pay for in property taxes.
The program is run by a group called Stewardship Ontario. The program works like this, manufacturers or brand owners who have any form of residency in the province are required to pay a fee for everything they import, sell or produce according to the fee schedule found here (pdf):
What do businesses get in return for the fee? That’s not clear, Stewardship Ontario says:
‘The fees we charge our stewards reflect the cost of recovering and processing these materials’
# The eco fee is a “hidden” tax grab and an attempt to extort money from “struggling families” already hit by the GST.
Our Message: 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 is 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.
The convoluted logic to claim eco-fees are not mandatory goes like this: manufacturers or brand-owners are required to pay appropriate fees to Stewardship Ontario. But manufacturers or brand owners have a choice about whether or not to pass on this new cost of doing business in the province. Therefore eco-fees are not mandatory.
Technically the claim that the eco-fee is not a tax is correct, as the money doesn’t go to government. But it is a levy on business, backed by law, or a tax by any other name. To claim otherwise is political posturing and semantics, and people are not fooled.
Businesses are being rational actors by passing on costs to consumers and because Stewardship Ontario finds it inconvenient that their green cash grab has been exposed doesn’t alter that fact. Remember also the eco-fee comes not only on top of property taxes, but also the 5 cent per plastic bag fee required in Toronto, charged province-wide by many businesses.
Once more the Ontario consumer is asked to pay too much for too little return, and the province becomes just a little bit less competitive.