Nova Scotia

N.S. government user fees going up April 1

Government user fees for everything from a marriage licence to a ferry trip will go up in Nova Scotia at least two per cent April 1.
As of April 1, most government user fees in Nova Scotia will increase by at least two per cent. (CBC)

Government user fees for everything from a marriage licence to a ferry trip will go up in Nova Scotia at least two per cent April 1.

The province announced Friday that more than 1,000 government services and licences are affected by the increase, including non-sufficient-fund cheque fees, tuition fees and books, GED fees, application fees for fishing and hunting licences and drivers licences.

For example, a marriage licence that currently costs $119.39 will go up to $121.78. An NSF cheque fee on a mortgage is currently $11.93, but will go up to $12.17 April 1.

Some fees will increase by more than two per cent, including camping trailer sewage disposal fees from $5.34 to $6.00 and single trip ferry tickets from $5.00 to $5.25.

Fees for ambulance services, electrical charges in senior and family public housing, laundry fees in senior public housing, as well as requests for information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act will not increase. Government service organizations, like school boards and health authorities, will also be exempted.

The government estimates the increases will generate about $3.4 million in additional revenue. The last fee increase, of three per cent, was in April 2009.

"It's not possible to deliver the services that people want and keep the costs down all the time," said NDP Finance Minister Graham Steele. 

Steele was on the opposition benches when the last increase came into effect. Liberal Andrew Younger remembers Steele criticizing the Conservative government of the day, calling the user fee increase another tax increase that would hurt ordinary Nova Scotians.

Friday, Steele billed them as "one of the necessary evils of government."

Younger questioned the timing of the announcement.

"They announced this at the end of the day on a Friday on the eve of federal election. They are trying to hide this…," said Younger.

Small business owner Jason Rhyno said ultimately the increased cost of licensing vehicles for his landscaping business would be passed on to the customer. (CBC)

Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie also panned the announcement.

"As of April 1, to be born, to drive a car, to play bingo, even elevator fees are going up and at some point Nova Scotians are going to want to know what floor to get off on," said Baillie.

Word of the increases wasn't going over well outside the motor vehicles registry.

"Everything is going up and I don't like it at all, you know, this province has to think about the common people here," said Tim Becklar.

Jason Rhyno owns a landscaping business and said ultimately the fees are another cost a small business has to try to recover.

"It's the customer who I end up having to charge a little more," said Rhyno.