5 things that British Columbians will pay more for April 1st

It's no April Fools': Life in B.C. is about to get more expensive, and advocates say it's the province's low-income seniors who will be hit the hardest.

April Fools Day brings higher prices for electricity, ferry fares, postage, and medical marijuana

Life in B.C. is about to get more expensive and advocates say it's the province's low-income seniors who will be hit the hardest.

Starting today and tomorrow — and it's no April Fools' joke — a number of rates affecting British Columbians are getting hiked, while some discounts are being dropped.

The cost of mailing a single first class letter went up to $1 as of March 31, 2014.

Lorraine Logan, president of the Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of B.C., says the added charges have been piling up.

"We don't get any increases necessarily in our pensions. We are on fixed salaries and I really do believe this is going to be a hardship," she told CBC News.

Logan says seniors will be holding rallies at the offices of Conservative MPs today, protesting the expiry of the federal health accord, which they believe will lead to further rate hikes for seniors.

1. Electricity

BC Hydro rates will be increasing nine per cent on April 1, 2014. Last year, the utility set out a plan to raise rates by 28 per cent over five years.

BC  Hydro says British Columbians still have some of the lowest electricity rates in North America, and the April 1st hike will cost about $8 more a month for an average residential customer.

2. Postage

If you've already gone out to mail a letter today, you'll have noticed that the cost of a single stamp to mail a standard-size first-class letter has increased from 63 cents to $1.

Stamps are cheaper if bought in packs, but the price per stamp there has still gone up to 85 cents.

3. BC Ferries fares

Regular fares are going up another four per cent this year, and BC Ferries is also reducing the seniors' discount. 

BC Ferries fares are going up another four per cent, just as they did this time last year. (CBC)

Previously, people 65 and older would walk on for free, from Monday to Thursday.

Starting April 1, however, they will be required to pay a half-price passenger fare Monday to Thursday on major and minor routes.

They will continue to pay full-price for their vehicles.

4. Medical marijuana

Health Canada is introducing a new licensing scheme for commercial growers and is banning home grow ops as of April 1st.

New Health Canada rules around medical marijuana production are coming into effect April 1. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

A temporary injunction is allowing some medical marijuana users to continue growing their own for now, but many others face higher prices.

While Health Canada sold medical marijuana for $5 a gram under the old system, prices under the new system are expected to average about $8 initially.

The federal government has predicted competition will make the drug cheaper as more producers enter the market, but that's little comfort for patients who produced or procured their own supply for pennies a day under the old system.

5. Co-op housing

Social housing advocates fear much of Canada's existing co-op housing could vanish if the current federal funding level of $1.7 billion a year dries up once the long-term operating agreements expire between Ottawa and affordable housing operators, all by 2020.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. estimates that as some of the operating agreements come to an end April 1, there will be a $23.3 million decrease in funding.

In B.C., the change this year affects 1,500 households.

Nearly 200,000 low-income Canadian households in co-op and non-profit housing projects depend on federal rent-geared-to-income housing assistance to pay their rent.

With files from the CBC's Robert Zimmerman


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