British Columbia

What's going to cost you more — and less — in B.C. in 2020

From ferry and transit fares to electricity and food, here's a rundown of some of the goods and services that are going to cost more and some that will cost less in 2020.

Food and ferries will cost more; ICBC rates remain frozen; MSP premiums have been eliminated

Some things will cost less in 2020, but get ready to pay more for food and transit. (Stefan Malloch/Shutterstock)

From ferry and transit fares to electricity and food, here's a rundown of some of the goods and services that are going to cost more and some that will cost less in 2020.

Pricey eats

For the second year in a row, British Columbia residents should expect to shell out more money for food in 2020.

A report published in December said uncertainty around climate change would increase food bills for the average Canadian family by $487. Researchers say droughts and other extreme weather events being caused by climate change are behind the increase in the price of food.

They forecast that the average Canadian family will spend $12,667 on food at grocery stores and restaurants in 2020.

In 2019 researchers said the annual food expenditure for a family of four increased by $411 to around $12,157 for the year.

'Frozen' ICBC rates

There will be no increase to Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) rates in 2020, at least for now.

In December, B.C. Attorney General David Eby put the brakes on the corporation's annual application to adjust rates so that more financial analysis could be completed around proposed reforms at ICBC.

On April 1, 2019, rates increased by 6.3 per cent, which resulted in an average increase of about $60 a year.

MSP premiums gone

British Columbians will ring in the new year by joining all Canadians in not paying monthly rates for health care.

Premiums under the province's Medical Services Plan (MSP) will be eliminated starting Jan. 1. The government says that could save individuals up to $900 a year while families stand to save up to $1,800 annually. The total amount of the net tax cut is $800 million.

The change comes a year after premiums were halved and B.C. introduced a new employer health tax. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is critical of the new tax, saying the MSP burden has just shifted to employers.

Ferry fares

The good news is that costs to ride a ferry went down in December.

That's when BC Ferries eliminated its 1.5 per cent fuel surcharge from each ticket due to a recent decrease in the price of fuel.

Those savings amount to a reduction of 25 cents per person and another 85 cents per vehicle.

The bad news is that in April 2020 fares will increase on average by 2.3 per cent.

A foot passenger ticket to go between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay currently costs $17.20 while taking a standard vehicle on that route costs $57.50.

There have been no vehicle fare increases since April 2017 and no passenger fare increases since 2016, according to BC Ferries. Both are going up in 2020. (CBC)

There have been no vehicle fare increases since April 2017 and no passenger fare increases since 2016, according to BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall.

"We know that affordability is a concern for customers, but due to escalating costs and required investments in infrastructure such as replacing older vessels, a modest tariff increase is necessary," she said.

BC Ferries said fares on minor and northern routes were reduced by 15 per cent in 2018. That same year the corporation began allowing seniors to travel for free Monday through Thursday on major and inter-island routes.

Transit

TransLink fares are set to increase on July 1 by 10 to 25 cents as part of yearly increases that were announced in the mayors' council's 10-year vision for regional transportation in 2016.

That means a regular, one-zone adult fare will increase from $3 to $3.20. A one-zone concession fare increases from $2 to $2.10.

An adult monthly pass increases from $98 to $101.

TransLink says the increases still need to be approved by the board, which won't happen until sometime in the spring.

TransLink fares are set to increase yearly until 2026. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

Outside the Lower Mainland, B.C. Transit, which operates bus service for 130 communities including Victoria, says fare changes are expected in Port Alberni, Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

For example, some day passes and cash tickets will cost less, while the cost of 10 one-way tickets will increase to $18.00, up from $15.75 or $13.50, depending on demographics. 

In Campbell River and the Comox Valley, some adult monthly passes will increase to $55 from $52. These changes, along with others, come into effect April 1, pending approval from the Comox Valley Regional District board.

In January, Whistler will make 500 bus passes available to secondary school students for free.

Electricity

If approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission, BC Hydro rates will be reduced by .99 per cent in April.

The updated rate will reduce the average residential customer's annual electricity costs by up to $16 while commercial customers' annual electricity costs will be reduced by up to $715 and industrial customers by up to $230,000.

Enjoy the savings while they last, as a 2.7-per-cent increase is planned for April 2021.

FortisBC, which provides hydro to Kelowna, the South Okanagan, and the West Kootenay-Boundary region of B.C., will increase rates by one per cent starting on Jan. 1, 2020.

The utility says it is the first increase since 2017 and will result in an average increase of just over one dollar a month for residential customers.

Some customers could see a decrease in their bills, though, as FortisBC moves to a flat, residential rate. 

Natural gas

FortisBC says the majority of customers in B.C. will see a reduction in their natural gas bills starting Jan. 1 due to a decrease in storage and transportation costs.

In the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island residential customers will see their overall bill decrease by about two per cent or $18 for the year, based on the average annual usage of 90 gigajoules.

Most people in B.C. will pay less for natural gas in 2020. (Shutterstock)

Property taxes

Vancouver property taxes are set to increase by seven per cent in 2020. The city, so far, leads other Metro Vancouver municipalities with the largest expected hike.

In December the City of Richmond passed a budget with an average 4.98-per-cent property-tax increase.

Pitt Meadows, White Rock, Maple Ridge, Port Moody, Coquitlam and Surrey are all expected to approve increases between three and four per cent. Many municipalities will present draft budgets in January or February of 2020.

In addition, Metro Vancouver has passed a budget with an average $33 increase in regional property tax levy per household, primarily to pay for utility services such as sewage and water. 

Garbage dumping

Several regions will make it more expensive to dump garbage in 2020.

Metro Vancouver will increase garbage tipping fees on Jan. 1 by $5 a tonne and $9 a tonne for loads greater than nine tonnes.

Tippage fees are also going up in the Cowichan Valley Regional District and West Kelowna.

Vancouver Park Board fees

In Vancouver, park board fees, such as what you pay to go swimming or use a fitness centre, are going up by about two per cent.

Drop-in admissions will go from $6.10 to $6.22, a one-month flexipass will go from $47.11 to $48.05, and 12-month passes will rise from $406.98 to $415.15.

With files from Justin McElroy

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