OTTAWA — The Liberals say higher user fees being imposed by the Harper government are really a disguised tax hike.
Industry critic Geoff Regan said 39 such increases have been announced and the government is looking to raise more.
He said it’s just tax increases by another name as the Conservatives try to dig out of the record deficits they have run up.
However, Treasury Board President Tony Clement denied that.
A Clement spokeswoman said increased user fees are a way to offset higher costs of delivering services.
A number of departments and agencies have announced higher fees for everything from camping permits in national parks to licence fees for a variety of businesses.
While some of the fee increases are already in place, many don’t take effect until 2013 or 2014.
Several of the departments which plan to raise fees justify the increases by saying they haven’t been adjusted for years and don’t reflect today’s costs or increased services.
Regan said it’s fallout from the government’s bungling of the economy.
“It is time for this government to end the secrecy and come clean on how much more Canadians can expect to pay for their poor fiscal management.
“As the Conservatives battle a massive deficit of their own making, we need to be vigilant and make sure they don’t balance the budget on the backs of Canadian families.”
Clement said the government is review spending across all departments, but cost-cutting doesn’t mean more user fees.
“Our goal is to find savings for the hard-working taxpayer — not hit them in their pocketbooks,” he said in an email. “I have been clear on this issue: this review will not produce hikes in user fees as you will see when all results are booked in budget 2012.”