Quebecers feel the burden of gas tax and electricity hikes

Increases in the gas tax and Hydro Quebec rates mean a higher cost of living for Quebecers.
A one-cent gas tax raise and 2.4 per cent Hydro hike means a higher cost of living for Quebecers. (CBC)

As of today, Quebecers should expect to pay a little more at the pumps.

Up to 19 cents from 18, it’s the fourth consecutive one-cent-per-litre gas tax raise in as many years.

April 1 also means paying 2.4 per cent more for electricity.

The rise in Hydro Québec rates will, on average, make about a $30 a year difference to residential clients according to the Energy Board.

The utility had originally asked Quebec's Energy Board for a 3.4 per cent rate increase, but was forced to settle for less.

For thousands of Quebecers, though, a small increase can have a big impact.

François Saillant, the coordinator of the housing advocacy group FRAPRU, said 41,000 Quebecers had their electricity cut off last year when they couldn’t afford to pay their bills.

He said it’s "unjust" to increase utility fees in lieu of increasing income tax because poor people pay a higher percentage of their income on bills than those who earn more.

Christine Meagher, a cashier at a St-Henri diner, says the cumulative effect of fee hikes makes it hard to budget. (CBC)

"The government has to put an end to these increases, or to increase less," Saillant said.

Small businesses are also feeling the pinch.

Louis Stavropoulos, manager of a St-Henri restaurant the Green Spot, said he receives letters every month advising him about one fee hike or another.

From delivery surcharges to the price of coffee to a higher electric bill, it’s getting harder for restaurants like his to stay in business.

"The amount of restaurants that are closing right now is unbelievable," he said.

Not every fee increase can be unloaded onto customers, though.

"So what happens is the business ends up absorbing the cost," Stavropoulos said.

For Christine Meagher, a cashier at the Green Spot, the Hydro hike and gas tax are a couple of large drops in a relatively small bucket.

"You have to budget it in, no matter what it is," she said.

"Everything is going up, not just Hydro, so you have to factor everything in. A few cents here, a few cents there. At the end of the year — at the end of every year — it’s a lot."