July 04, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

The big squeeze 

Rising taxes, rising costs, and the impact on the Whistler standard of living

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By Andrew Mitchell

A fool and his money are easily parted, but these days an honest man doesn’t stand much of a chance, either.

Like many people, I learned the value of a dollar the hard way. I made dollars, spent dollars, squandered dollars, borrowed dollars, paid more dollars on the dollars I’ve borrowed, and even managed to save a few dollars here and there. Now that I’m finally at a juncture in my life where I can finally appreciate a dollar’s true value, the same dollar is suddenly worth a lot less.

Costs of living that used to increase incrementally have been growing in leaps and bounds in recent months as the economy sinks into a potentially long and difficult recession. Nationally, the core inflation rate was up to 2.2 per cent for the year in May, far more than we typically see in an entire year. In fact, the previous 12 months’ inflation was a low 1.5 per cent. Record fuel prices are the main culprit, but gas isn’t the only expense that is going up these days.

Here’s a short list of increased costs that myself and most other Whistler residents are facing: rising property taxes and fees, rising utility costs (both gas and hydro), a new provincial carbon tax on top of record fuel costs, rising food costs, rising mortgage rates, and higher interest rates on loans and debt.

My strata fees are also significantly higher this year, largely because of the increased cost of snow clearing these past two winters. I know of others that are paying higher rents, partly because of the increased demand prompted by the local construction boom, and partly because homeowners have to charge more to recover their own costs.

Virtually all of the necessities of life are going up with the exception of a few commodities like electronics and clothing that are actually helping to keep inflation down.

For people that are able to save — and personal savings rates are at their lowest point in Canada since savings peaked in 1982, with Canadians now saving less than 1.2 per cent of their earnings compared to 11.2 per cent 26 years ago — the interest rates are also lower. A high interest eSavings account at Royal Bank that paid 3.250 per cent less than a year ago is now paying 2.750 per cent today.

While Whistler’s costs of living are among the highest in the country, and recent increases are adding insults to our injuries, our collective situation is hardly unique. This economic crisis is global, with effects ranging from inflation to starvation being felt almost everywhere.

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