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Living in Ontario gets more expensive

By John Miner, The London Free Press

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Happy New Year and keep your wallet handy.

You’re going to be paying more for a whole bunch of Ontario government services starting Jan. 1, although there are a few breaks coming your way, too.

The big hit is the Wynne government’s cap-and-trade program aimed at fighting climate change.

If you heat with natural gas, you will pay about $70 to $80 a year more, according to an estimate released by Union Gas.

At the gas pump, expect to pay out about 4.3 cents a litre extra in 2017 for cap-and-trade.

On the plus side of the ledger, Ontario will cut electricity bills by about eight per cent when it drops its portion of the HST.

The province also is doubling the maximum refund of the land- transfer tax to $4,000 for first-time home buyers, which means they won’t pay the tax on the first $368,000 of a purchase price.

Premier Kathleen Wynne touted the savings in a statement unveiling the changes: “We are building an Ontario where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from our growing economy . . . inclusive communities and . . . high quality of life.”

Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton, Tory critic for economic development and growth, said the electricity savings are “too little, too late,” and cap-and-trade costs are sure to hurt.

“Life is going to be much harder under the Liberal government and it is going to continue in 2017 and beyond. Families are going to continue to suffer under Kathleen Wynne’s poor management,” McNaughton said Monday.

It’s not only the province reaching for more money in 2017.

London households get hit with a 2.8 per cent property-tax increase Jan. 1, an extra $76 on an average home assessed at $221,000.

Families with children will get a break in the new year when kids 12 and under will ride free on London Transit buses. Currently only children under five don’t have to pay.

Other new provincial fees and fee hikes coming in the new year:

• Appealing your assessment: fees for residential appeals go up to $125 from $75. Fees for non-residential appeals change to $300 from $150.

• Getting your suspended driver’s licence reinstated will cost $198 in 2017, up from the current $180

• Fee for a land severance application rises to $800 from $720.

• Hunters will no longer have to pay $35 for the wild turkey education course, but commercial fishing licence fees are going up.

A series of regulation changes Jan. 1 won’t cost you, but could change your life. They include:

• Restaurant chains with 20 or more Ontario locations must start posting caloric content, but not sodium levels, on menus.

• Travel agents and wholesalers must include the all-in price for their services and vacation packages in all advertising.

• Towing companies must post rates for towing and vehicle storage on their trucks and provide itemized invoices. They must also accept credit cards and cannot demand cash.

• Child support will no longer be treated as income for people on social assistance or disability payments, ending the provincial clawback from some of its lowest-income residents.

• The maximum cost of a payday loan will drop to $18 from $21 for every $100 borrowed.

• The updated Smoke Free Ontario Act will ban sale of clove cigarettes and most menthol-flavoured tobacco products.

• Police in Ontario will no longer be able to engage in carding, or random street checks.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Some Jan. 1 ups and downs

Natural gas: $70 to $80 a year hike for Ontario's cap-and-trade program

Gas: About 4.3 cent a litre hike for cap and trade

Electricity: Eight per cent decrease because province will no longer collect its portion of the HST