Edmonton grandmother told to return portion of carbon tax rebate cheque after husband's death

Edmonton grandmother told to return portion of carbon tax rebate cheque after husband's death

When 84-year-old Irene Pagacz opened a letter from the Alberta government last week, she started crying, her grandson says.

The letter informed the senior that her Alberta climate change rebate had been adjusted from $150 to $125 and she owed the province $25 from the previous cheque.

"Initially she was confused. She did not know why they were asking for money back," Marshall Pagacz said.

While the amount owing is small, it's the details that have Pagacz and his grandmother upset.

The letter indicated that her annual entitlement had changed based on the information they have.

"Why you may ask?" wrote Pagacz in a Facebook post that has how now been shared nearly 15,000 times since Wednesday.

"Well because her marital status has changed. How did it change? Well her husband of 62 years, my grandfather, passed away a few weeks ago."

On Jan. 19, Teofil Pagacz, 87, died after a fall. 

Irene has been having trouble processing the loss, especially since she was in hospital when her husband died in their home and she never got the chance to say goodbye.

"She was really shaken up because it is still very emotional to her, still very fresh to her, so this was just kind of a reminder in a sense that he's gone," Pagacz said.

The speed of the reassessment troubles the family.

It was completed less than a month following Teo's death, which Pagacz calls insensitive.

"It just shows a flaw in the system that these letters and these rebates are just sent out without factoring in the entire situation that this person is in," Pagacz laments.

Pagacz says the family plans to pay the $25 bill, and that it's not about the money, but about the principle of going after a grieving widow who can little afford it.

"My biggest issue with this is the carbon rebate program was put into place to help protect low income families and individuals and with the passing of my grandfather, my grandma's income is substantially lower now," he said.

Instead of sending a bill, he argues a better way to have handled the situation would have been taking the adjustment off his grandma's next cheque.

"It would have been less insensitive and it would have put less stress on someone who has lost their loved one, " he argues.   

He wants to be clear this isn't a political witch hunt against the NDP government.

He puts the blame squarely on the Canada Revenue Agency, which administers the carbon rebate program for the province.

"I just believe someone somewhere should have the ability to sit down and make a decision, 'Yes this is a good this to do' or 'No, sending out this $25 bill is not in the best interest of anybody,' " he said.

A statement from Alberta's Finance Ministry acknowledges the last thing anyone needs while dealing with the loss of a loved one is a letter that causes further stress.

"We are working with CRA to ensure this person and every Albertan receives the full rebate to which they are entitled," it goes on to say. "We have also requested that CRA take steps to prevent this from happening again."