Earlier this month, two families in Alberta were surprised by unanticipated charges that accompanied the cost of the cremation of their loved ones. The additional charge was listed as a carbon tax and cost $100. With the average cost of basic cremation services ranging from $1,500 – $2,700 (plus or minus), it is easy to understand how a grieving family mighty be confused to receive an additional $100 charge, especially for a newly-established tax.
Confronting the Funeral Home
When the families confronted the Calgary-based funeral home, Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services Airdrie, about the charge, the funeral home didn’t handle the situation very well. Their response to each complaint was to simply confirm the charge as a carbon tax, which was recently implemented (on January 1, 2017) as a means for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
What the funeral home didn’t explain, however, was how the charge was calculated; and, they didn’t investigate it in either case.
According to the province, the newly-established carbon tax should cost up to $4, based on the amount of natural gas needed to perform the cremation. Instead, they were charged for the cost associated with using approximately 5 tons of carbon dioxide, which is equal to the amount of natural gas required to heat a home for almost a full year.
A Small, But Significant Mistake
According to a recent CBCNews article, the funeral home owner, Diann Rowat, tried to justify the price of the carbon tax, stating that the “carbon tax is not just on cremation. It’s on every fuel product you use, so it’s also on the gas on our funeral vehicles.” Unfortunately, her statement wasn’t backed by research, and when she had her accountants recalculate the tax, they found that they had calculated incorrectly – by a whole decimal point.
The funeral home did apologize, claim full responsibility for the mistake, and also offered a full reimbursement for the charges. They also admitted not handling the whole situation properly. However, they aren’t the only business that has struggled with calculating the new tax.
Government and Business Responsibility
Go Public interviewed Jennifer Winter, area director of energy and environmental policy at the University of Calgary, and she stated, “Businesses have struggled to estimate its impact — and what to pass on to Albertans.” Winter also indicated that calculating the cost of the carbon tax is not as simple as it sounds. Heating and shipping costs are considered examples of indirect carbon use, and should also be included in the tax calculation.
While Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services Airdrie should be more diligent in calculating the carbon tax moving forward, citizens agree that the Alberta government should also take some responsibility. Educating citizens about the tax with a clear explanation could prevent situations like this from happening in the future.