Carbon tax threatens rural non-profits in Alberta, critics warn
Small organizations want provincial government to change how not-for-profits are taxed
Non-profit organizations in small towns in Alberta are ringing the alarm over the impact of the provincial carbon tax.
Some say the additional costs involved in paying the tax could threaten their existence in communities that rely on them.
"Our carbon tax is approximately $1,200 per year," said Ray Sharp, Sundre West Country Centre board member. The centre is open to over-50s, hosting a wide range of events for seniors every day of the week, for many providing a lifeline.
"The centre is emotionally, mentally and physically the most wonderful thing for our seniors. But as a non-profit organization we don't get any rebates and we find $1,200 will eat all of our membership. It's financially eating us up."
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The Alberta government has been mailing rebates to families and individuals to help ease the pain of a new tax, but non-profits don't enjoy those same breaks.
"The government has decided that we should pay carbon tax without a rebate so they can give it to someone else, and if it's the last thing I do I'm going to fix this," said Sharp. "The Elks are struggling, the Legion is struggling, they don't know what to do either."
Sharp believes non-profits like his should be exempt from paying the tax, or at least receive rebates.
The carbon tax came into effect Jan. 1, 2017 and this month it increased 50 per cent to $30 per tonne of carbon pollution.
The carbon tax on a litre of gasoline is now 6.73 cents per litre, and 8.03 cents for diesel.
The tax on natural gas is now $1.517 per gigajoule.
Sundre's Aquaplex pool and fitness centre — run as a non-profit — is also feeling the strain, and seeing much bigger carbon tax bills.
"The tax came in at $460 per month in June 2017 and as of Jan. 1 it went up again, so we're now paying $690 to $700 per month on carbon tax alone," said Leona Bennett with the Sundre and District Aquaplex. "We're really getting hit hard."
Bennett says the Aquaplex also spent $120,000 on new boilers last spring to try to improve the centre's energy efficiency.
"It's not just us that are impacted, it's the community as a whole," said Bennett. "Our little organizations are what keep Sundre going and without these facilities in the community we won't have a community.
"Because of the carbon tax we had to increase our rates, but we couldn't increase them as much as required because people are also paying the carbon tax too. We can't double dip with them."
Bennet says organizations like theirs are being pushed by the government and she wants a rebate or all-out exemption from the carbon tax.
Sharp says he's tried for seven weeks to talk to someone from the province about the issue but nobody has returned his calls.
"Our government knows that non-profit organizations are the heart of many Alberta communities," said Matt Dykstra, spokesperson for Alberta Climate Change Office.
Dykstra says the province created the Non-Profit Energy Efficiency Transition Program, or NEET, which provides a grant to non-profits for energy efficiency audits. The grant covers all of the direct costs for energy efficiency audits and energy management plans for eligible organizations, up to a maximum of $12,000.
"After hearing concerns directly from the West Country Seniors Centre, we connected with them and they are now in the process of applying for NEET funding," Dykstra added.
Energy Efficiency Alberta also offers Business, Non-Profit and Institutional Energy Savings Programs where non-profits looking to upgrade old equipment can apply for a rebate for replacing items like lights, HVAC systems and water heaters, helping save on energy costs.