Gas tax relief in B.C.

September 25, 2012
Written by David Schmidt
Greenhouse vegetable and floriculture growers in British Columbia have recently received some relief from the province’s carbon tax.

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Welcoming news of carbon tax relief delivered by B.C. Ag Minister Don McRae. PHOTOS BY DAVID SCHMIDT

 
This spring, B.C. Minister of Agriculture Don McRae went to Canada’s largest greenhouse, the 110-acre Village Farms tomato greenhouse in Delta, to announce growers will receive $7.6 million to offset the carbon tax they are expected to pay this year.

McRae admitted the carbon tax, which is unique to B.C. among North American jurisdictions, has put growers in the province at a competitive disadvantage. He says the relief will allow them to “focus on maintaining their competitive edge and building B.C.’s half-billion-dollar-a-year greenhouse industry.”

PROVINCE IS NOW LOOKING AT PERMANENT SOLUTION
■ Greenhouse vegetable growers will receive $6 million, while the remaining $1.6 million will go to greenhouse floriculture growers. McRae called it a “temporary” measure, saying a permanent solution will be part of the comprehensive review of the carbon tax the provincial government has promised to conduct later this year.

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UFG director Stan Vanderwal 

 
To qualify for the grants, greenhouses must be at least 455 square metres and be in vegetable or flower production both this year and last. Last year’s gross sales must have been at least $20,000. Growers will receive grants based on the 2011 volumes of fuel used, multiplied by 4.2 cents per litre of propane or $1.37 per gigajoule of natural gas.

THE TAX WAS INTRODUCED IN JANUARY OF 2010
■ B.C. introduced the carbon tax on Jan. 1, 2010. For the first six months, the rate was set at 74.49 cents
/gj of natural gas and 2.31 cents/litre of propane. July 1, 2010, the rate was increased to 99.32 cents/gj of natural gas and 3.08 cents/litre of propane. On July 1, 2011, it was increased to $1.2415/gj of natural gas and 3.85 cents/litre of propane, the rate growers are currently paying.

On July 1 of this year, the rate was set to increase to $1.4898/gj of natural gas and 4.62 cents/litre of propane.

The rebate rate is calculated as an average of the two rates, which will apply in 2012.

THE SECOND LARGEST INDUSTRY IN CANADA
■ The B.C. greenhouse vegetable and floriculture sector includes about 480 greenhouses producing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, plants and flowers. It is the second largest region in Canada, with 2011 sales of $515 million and about 5,500 employees.

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Attending the announcement were, left to right, Chilliwack MLA John Les, BCGGA president Peter Cummings, UFG director Stan Vanderwal, and provincial Ag Minister Don McRae.

 
“This restores our industry’s confidence,” B.C. Greenhouse Growers Association president Peter Cummings said.
BCGGA vice-chair Ravi Cheema, who has four hectares under glass, welcomes the relief but will only relax when it becomes permanent. He is also concerned the relief does not include greenhouses just coming into production.

That affects him personally. Last year, he had a two-hectare greenhouse in Aldergrove. This year, he has taken over a second two-hectare greenhouse in Pitt Meadows. Since that greenhouse was used for nursery production last year, it does not qualify for the relief.

As a result, he expects to be reimbursed for only about half of the $80,000 the carbon tax will cost him this year.

REBATES WILL BE ISSUED AFTER ALL APPLICATIONS ARE REVIEWED
■ To receive the rebate, growers had to apply to their respective associations by June 30. As the rebate amounts are capped, no rebates will be issued until all applications have been reviewed. If the total amounts for either vegetable or floriculture production exceed the funding available, the rebates for that sector will be prorated.

Nursery growers with greenhouses have been clamouring to have the program extended to them.

In April, the B.C. Landscape and Nursery Association conducted a survey of its members to gather data intended to support including nurseries in the carbon tax rebate program.

“Some growers report paying carbon tax bills ranging from $1,000 to over $150,000,” said BCLNA growers liaison Hedy Dyck, saying the BCLNA will use the data it collects to press the government for relief for its members.


David Schmidt is a freelance writer and photographer in British Columbia.

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