British Columbians will ring in the New Year with no MSP premiums, tougher pollution rules, a hefty vaping tax, and single-use plastics bans in several municipalities.
Here is a look at some of the changes taking effect in B.C., and in Canada, as of Jan.1.
Premiums under the province’s Medical Services Plan will be eliminated starting Jan. 1, saving individuals up to $900 a year while families will pocket up to $1,800.
The Finance Ministry says ditching the “unfair” premiums will amount to a net tax cut of $800 million.
The change comes a year after premiums were halved and B.C. introduced a new tax of 1.95 per cent for businesses with a payroll over $1.5 million.
SINGLE-USE PLASTICS AND STYROFOAM
Some B.C. residents will be starting the new decade with bans on single-use plastics and styrofoam takeout containers, as municipalities work to protect the environment from too much trash. In Vancouver, foam cups and take-out containers are banned starting Wednesday.
A ban on plastic and compostable plastic straws takes effect in Vancouver in April, however restaurants and bars will still need to stock bendable plastic straws for patrons with accessibility challenges. Bubble tea vendors will get a one-year exemption.
Another bylaw coming into effect in April is a by-request requirement for single-use utensils. That means customers will have to request single-use utensils if needed, but restaurants will no longer automatically include plastic utensils with take-out orders.
In Vancouver, plastic bags will be banned beginning Jan. 1, 2021. Many other communities in B.C. have already implemented restrictions on plastic bags or are in the process of doing so including, Courtenay, Cumberland, Qualicum Beach, Rosalind, Salmon Arm, Victoria, Sooke, Squamish, Tofino, and Ucluelet.
Many businesses are already ditching plastic bags, while B.C. Liquor stores are phasing them out. The provincial government has not banned single-use plastics, however it is looking into how to deal with plastic pollution.
Last summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government hopes to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021.
Starting Jan.1, the provincial sales tax on vaping products will go up to 20 per cent from seven per cent, along with restrictions on the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes.
B.C. is the first province in Canada to tax e-cigarettes. The vape tax will generate roughly $10 million a year in new revenue.
The tobacco tax rate is also going up by two cents to 29.5 cents per cigarette, which is expected to add $25 million to the provincial treasury.
New international laws on sulphur pollution from commercial and cruise ships takes effect Jan. 1.
Under the new law enacted by the International Maritime Organization, all vessels must lower the sulphur content in their emissions to 0.5 per cent from 3.5 per cent. Companies can either install scrubbers to continue using bunker fuel or build new vessels that run on cleaner fuels.
A recent report from the World Wildlife Fund Canada report raised concerns about scrubbers, saying the contaminated wash water may be harmful to orca whales.
Robert Lewis-Manning, president of the Chamber of Shipping, has called the $10-billion investment to change sulphur laws “the single biggest regulatory shipping change” in history.
As of June 1, the minimum wage in B.C. will increase to $14.60 per hour, from $13.85. In June 2021, the province has pledged it will go up to $15.20 per hour. B.C. Premier John Horgan made the announcement in 2018, which he characterized as a compromise in keeping with a comprehensive review by the fair-wage commission he set up last October.
FEDERAL TAX CHANGES
Federal tax changes coming into effect Jan. 1 will lower taxes for most Canadians. The basic amount most Canadians can earn tax-free is going up, and is being phased in over four years until it reaches $15,000 in 2023.
For this year, the exemption amount will increase from $12,069 to $13,229.
The benefit will be lower for anyone earning more than $150,473 during the year and will be reduced to zero for Canadians with incomes above $214,368.
Also effective Jan. 1, Canadians experiencing a breakdown in their marriage or common-law partnership can qualify to withdraw money from their registered retirement savings plan, without incurring a tax penalty, to buy a home.
-with files from Stephanie Ip, Rob Shaw, Cheryl Chan, and The Canadian Press