By Keith Leslie
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO _ A series of regulatory and fee changes are set to take effect in Ontario on Jan. 1, 2016, including increases in electricity bills and a break for natural gas users.
The debt retirement charge of about $70 a year is being eliminated from hydro bills, but so is a 10 per cent discount program that saved the average residential consumer about $200 a year.
The Ontario Energy Board has approved rate decreases effective Jan. 1 that should save the average household that relies on natural gas about $48 a year.
The Ontario tax credit rate for charitable donations over $200 increases in the new year from 11.16 per cent to 17.41 per cent.
Another regulatory change will require drivers to remain stopped at a school crosswalk until people are completely off the road instead of proceeding once a person crossing the street is no longer on the driver’s half of the road.
Bad drivers who are ordered to attend demerit point interviews will be charged a new $50 fee to cover the cost of the interview, and they will lose their driver’s licence if they don’t pay the fee.
Ontario municipalities will be able to mail traffic tickets to owners of vehicles with out-of-province plates, and the province’s courts will accept evidence from other jurisdictions for prosecution.
The fee applied to unpaid fines under the Provincial Offences Act will increase to $40 from $20 its first increase since 1992.
And as of Jan. 1, insurance companies must offer a discount to motorists who install four winter tires on their vehicles, but the amount of the discount is not specified.
Validation fees for small farm vehicles rise from $123 to $140 and the fee for heavier farm vehicles rises from $975 to $1,110.
Oversize and overweight fees for commercial carriers will increase from $400 to $440 for an annual permit and from $260 to $286 for each project permit.
There will be a ban on the sale of flavoured tobacco products on Jan. 1, and the ban on smoking will expand to include the grounds of hospitals and psychiatric facilities.
The province backed off a plan to ban vaping or using electronic cigarettes on Jan. 1 after advocates of medical marijuana said the regulation would have allowed them to vape just about anywhere. New regulations are expected later in the year.
There are also changes to the way the province taxes trusts, including estates, that will apply the highest personal income tax rate.
People who rely on partial disability benefits from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board will see an increase of 0.5 percent on Jan. 1 _ part of a staged approach to providing all injured workers with benefits fully indexed to inflation.
The royalty paid by commercial fishers rises from 3.3 to four per cent for fish harvested. Annual fees for commercial fishing licences more than double, from $25 to $54.56 for less than 15,000 pounds annual catch, and from $100 to $218.56 for more than 15,000 pounds.