Wednesday, January 18, 2017

STUDENTS SHOULD BE EXEMPT FROM LITERACY TAX

It is very disappointing, that despite the many concerns expressed locally and nationally, our Provincial Government has decided to stubbornly stay the draconian course of Budget 2016 and implement a literacy tax on the people of this province.

I believe the literacy tax is a shameful disgrace, the imposition of which will have a negative economic impact in the short, and long run. In the short term, local book stores and publishers must accept an unfair burden on their already marginal bottom lines. This could cost jobs and lead to the publication of less local stories. In the long-term, we may see higher rates of illiteracy.


Should books in a province with the highest rates of illiteracy be subjected to “sin taxes” like alcohol and cigarettes which have proven to be somewhat resilient to price increases and contribute significantly to the high cost of healthcare in the province. 


In a province where we lead the country in obesity and diabetes, the government forces us to pay more for books while refusing to tax negative lifestyle choices that have created demonstrably heavy burdens our healthcare system. According to the provincial government the literacy tax will raise $2.1-million in 2017. An additional ten cents on a bottle of pop could have generated an additional $5 million! 


One can only speculate on why a progressive government, laden with educators and educated individuals, would choose to tax books for students, life-long learners and those who crave literacy. In today’s knowledge-based society, literacy is vital to our economic well-being.  It is a retrogressive policy that has become a national embarrassment and will perpetuate unsustainable levels of illiteracy. 


At the very least the government should consider exempting students from paying this tax on literacy. Primary and secondary students should not have to breaking open their piggy banks to pay taxes on Scholastic orders. University and other post-secondary students should not be forced to pay taxes on required text books. 


Surely there are government MHAs, school boards and organizations that represent students that have the strength of conviction to demand a course correction.  We all can not live with our heads down hoping that by being loyal sheep we might not get sheared.


Certainly, there is no economic or social value in this approach. The real opportunity costs, political, cultural and economic, may never be quantified.


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