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This week’s mailbox: A rebate rant

“If you really want to give cash back, send a cheque to every Yukon health card holder.”

To Sandy Silver;

First let me introduce myself. I am a pensioner retired from YG. I built (well, continue to build) myself a home outside of Whitehorse (to avoid bylaws, taxes, water and sewer bills, etc.) offgrid, to be as self-sufficient as possible. It is also much cheaper, and when you are living on a small fixed income (my pension is about $25K/yr), cheap is good.

I heat with wood. I haul my own water. I have high-speed internet, but that is my only concession to monthly bills. Oh, and my cell phone, which works when I am closer to town. My “carbon footprint” is quite small, other than using my fuel-efficient car to go to Whitehorse for groceries, and my truck for building supplies when needed, and a small amount of gas for my very small generator in the darker months, when my solar panels don’t quite do it.

Unfortunately, my transportation needs are unavoidable. To keep energy needs for my home low, I avoid anything that plugs in. I have no dishwasher, furnace, or kitchen counter-top appliances (yes, you can make toast and coffee on a stove top), and my small fridge and oven are propane. I have a TV, gaming system, stereo and guitar amplifiers, but I only use them when I have enough solar power or I’m willing to use a litre of gas for the generator for a few hours. Not the life for everyone, I admit, but it is good for me and was designed to be sustainable through my retirement years. So far, so good.

Inflation hit me the same as everyone else. My main expenses are groceries and gas. Luckily I have no mortgage or debt, so rising interest rates don’t affect me directly, but indirectly they affect me the same as everyone else. YG, being a Liberal and socialist type government (which I have supported, in the absence of a viable alternative), sees their people struggling with rising prices and decides to help out with some financial support. Personally I believe that government should take care of government, and citizens can take care of themselves. If society is structured right, then citizens will have the resilience to get through “hard times”, which is what the press are calling the current situation.

By the way, these aren’t hard times. These are, at best, challenging times for people who are over-extended, those living slightly (or far) beyond their means. I don’t blame these people for buying too-big houses and buying so much stuff they need to rent a storage locker to put it in, with too-big mortgages and living on credit — they are a product of a consumer society surrounded by effective marketing from big business, who are making scads of money on the backs of the masses.

I digress.

So YG decides to give money to the citizens to help ease inflation. Oh wow, methinks, free money. Oh, but it’s actually my money that the government acquired through my taxes, so really they are just giving me back a small (very small) portion of what they took from me to run government. They must have taken too much, and have a surplus to distribute. Surely they aren’t borrowing it from future tax payers, that would be silly and irresponsible. Odds are that future tax payers will be worse off than us.

First, they distribute this windfall to people who pay Yukon Electric/Energy electricity bills. I guess I don’t get anything, being an energy-responsible off-gridder. Nor will any of my four children, who rent housing with energy included in the rent, or live in Yukon University dorms. They need the money more than anyone, but instead the money will go to their landlords, who have multiple Yukon Energy accounts, and will get multiple rebates. Huh. Guess that didn’t work. It certainly did not reach a lot of Yukon citizens that needed help with inflation the most.

Homeless people didn’t get it. I didn’t get it. My kids didn’t get it.

Now not only is YG doing this flawed inflation relief through electrical bills again, they are also screwing up the firewood rebate. As I said, I heat with wood. I am getting older, so rather than cut my own wood as I have done throughout my life, I purchased some last year, and again this year, to supplement what I cut off my land. Oh joy! Methinks, the government is going to give me back some of my money through a cordwood rebate!

Then I look at the forms that they have developed. The firewood supplier must have a corporate registry number. That’s a number that businesses get when they register as a corporation. My firewood guy, who scrabbles to make a living cutting wood on the side, and the neighbour down the road who bought a B-train of firewood to get it cheaper, and sold the excess to lucky neighbours, do not have corporate firewood cutting registry numbers. No, to get this rebate you must deal with the bigger firewood businesses, the ones that YG has made life difficult for by not supplying harvesting permits. So now, if you are ordering firewood, are you going to get it from the little guy who works really hard, but doesn’t have a corporate registry number? More YG support for big business. Shameful. So not only am I not able to apply for the rebate for the six cords I purchased this year (should last me two years), the rebate has the potential to put the small firewood suppliers out of business.

Now, I don’t believe in complaining without proposing a solution. So how’s this. Don’t give cash back, reduce Yukon taxes by an equivalent amount instead. It’s my money you are playing with anyway, so just don’t take as much of it.

If you really want to give cash back, send a cheque to every Yukon health card holder. Then you give it to all Yukoners, including homeless people, and families will get more. It’s true that even rich folk will get it, but only one cheque.

Thanks for the thought, Sandy, but it just isn’t reaching me.

Neil Salvin