Ontario's new regulations for 2017: Hydro rebates, carbon taxes and calorie counts
Calorie counts on menus, new carding rules for police and all-in prices in travel ads are among the other new regulations taking effect on Jan. 1.
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Ontario residents will notice more money in one pocket and less in another as electricity tax rebates and new carbon fees for natural gas and gasoline take effect in 2017.
First-time homebuyers will get a break on the land transfer tax and — just in time for New Year’s resolutions — restaurant chains with at least 20 locations must post calorie counts on their menus.
Travellers planning winter vacations can also rely on packaged trips being advertised with all-in pricing and no hidden fees under new regulations taking effect Jan. 1.
The rules for police stopping citizens are also changing as officers will no longer be allowed to arbitrarily ask someone for their identification, a controversial practice known as carding that tended to target racial minorities.
On the energy front, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s promise to waive the 8 per-cent-provincial portion of the HST on hydro bills kicks in to give ratepayers some much-needed relief.
It’s expected to save the average homeowner about $11 monthly, or $130 a year.
Wynne has acknowledged that she made a “mistake” letting electricity costs rise rapidly — something opposition parties have pounced on with an election looming in 18 months and the Liberals lagging in public opinion polls.
“For years, Ontario residents, families and job creators have been struggling with never-ending increases to their hydro rates,” said Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex).
“Shamefully, the Wynne government refuses to hear these concerns and has no credible plan for hydro relief.”
The government counters that remote rural residents — many of whom are in areas not served by natural gas and heat their homes using electricity — will get a 20-per-cent break and 1,000 more companies will be able to take advantage of a program that rewards them with lower hydro rates if they shift use away from peak hours.
But savings on electricity bills will be offset by new fees for carbon-based fuels under Wynne’s $8.3-billion effort to fight climate change.
Although the government has warned homeowners to expect an extra $5 on natural gas bills, Enbridge, for example, says its carbon fee will be in the range of $6 to $7 a month, or $80 a year for the typical customer using 2,400 cubic metres of natural gas annually.
Gasoline companies can also charge motorists 4.3 cents per litre in carbon fees — just over $2 per tank — which will help fund programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
Here’s how the carbon fees work: Companies selling fossil fuels must buy greenhouse gas allowances under the government plan to cap carbon emissions, and can trade carbon credits for profit if they come in below their limits.
“Enbridge passes the cap-and-trade costs to customers and the amount customers pay is related to the amount of natural gas they use,” the company explains on its website.
“We believe that both natural gas, and Enbridge, can play an important role in helping to reduce overall emissions in Ontario.”
The carbon fee will be included in the “delivery” line of natural gas bills and not listed separately under terms of an Ontario Energy Board ruling that has been widely criticized by opposition parties.
In contrast, the 8-per-cent tax waiver on electricity bills will be listed separately.
Among other measures that took effect Jan. 1:
- Diners can expect to see calorie counts for both food and beverages posted along with daily calorie requirements so people can put the information in context. For example, if a meal is 1,300 calories, that would go a long way toward the average daily requirement of 2,000 to 2,400 calories for an adult.
The Dieticians of Canada call the new calorie labelling law a “helpful tool consumers can use to make informed decisions and choose healthier foods and beverages when eating out.”
- Eligible first-time homebuyers will get a maximum refund of $4,000 on the land transfer tax — double the previous level — meaning there will be no tax on the first $368,000 of a home’s value.
That will be a small help to Toronto-area homebuyers in the region’s overheated real estate market and even better in areas where house and condo prices are more affordable.
- For Ontarians on social assistance, child support payments will no longer be treated as income, which will leave them with more money.
- Also on the consumer front, towing companies and vehicle storage lots will have to disclose their rates, let motorists know where their vehicles are parked and provide itemized invoices to prevent gouging.
- Ontarians who rely on payday loan services will see the maximum cost of interest lowered to $18 for every $100 borrowed, down from $21.