The Liberal government has introduced a bill that would significantly increase the fees that Canadians pay for a variety of federal services, such as campsites, fishing licences and passports.
In an omnibus budget bill brought forward Tuesday, the government proposes a new Service Fees Act that would automatically hike hundreds of fees by the level of inflation each year.
The move would also make it much easier for departments to apply for fee increases to better match the cost of providing services to individual Canadians and businesses. The proposed law is slated to come into effect April 1 next year.
The federal government collected about $2 billion in various fees in 2014-15, the latest year for which figures are available, but estimates it cost $3.4 billion to provide those services — resulting in a massive shortfall of $1.4 billion.
The measure was briefly mentioned in last month’s budget document, which estimated aggregate fee revenues would increase by $36 million in 2018-2019, and by $147 million in extra revenues by 2021-2022.
The measure does not target specific fees. Rather, it replaces 13-year-old legislation that effectively froze fees by making it too onerous for departments to apply for increases as costs rose.
Federal officials estimate only about 20 per cent of all federal fees are captured by the User Fees Act of 2004. But the new legislation would capture almost all fees, and would require government to report in detail to Parliament each year on the amounts collected versus the cost of providing services.
Opposition critics have called the measure a tax grab, which can especially hurt low-income Canadians.
But a spokesman for Treasury Board President Scott Brison,…