Denise Corey said if the province moves forward with putting the provincial portion of the HST on printed products in the spring budget, it could cost the Cumberland Public Libraries approximately $8,300 – equivalent to the large print and teen collections.
“We would have to reduce the amount of books we buy by probably 400 or so books,” Corey said. “We spend between $83,000 and $86,000 a year on books, magazines and other things. Right now we pay the federal portion of the tax, but get most of it back as a rebate. No one pays the provincial portion of the tax.”
Corey expressed her concerns to Finance Minister Diana Whalen when she was in Amherst recently, while Cumberland Regional Library Board chairman Frank Balcom sent the minister a letter saying it would have a severe effect on the purchasing power of libraries in the province.
The chief librarian said increasing taxes on books and magazines would also hinder literacy rates.
“Literacy rates in Nova Scotia are already not great. If you are taking something away that makes being literate easier how is this going to help?” Corey said.
Presently, when someone buys a printed book, they pay the five per cent federal GST, but the 10 per cent share from the province is a point of sale rebate, meaning they aren’t charged the provincial portion.
Other items with a point of sale rebate include children’s clothing shoes and diapers, feminine hygiene products and residential energy – something the NDP removed during their four years in power.
Released in November, the review of the province’s tax system by lawyer Laurel Broten made 22 recommendations based on taxes and 20 recommendations on provincial fees.
“That recommendation from the Broten report seems to me to be targeting women and those who are of a lower socio-economic status,” Corey said. “I know the Nova Scotia economy is in trouble but are you going to build on the backs of our poorest people. There is study after study that says reading to children helps make them better readers, but adding to the cost of books and magazines is going to prevent some from purchasing books and magazines.
“People will say no one’s using libraries anymore, but I can tell you we had more than 130,000 items taken out last year and people always want new stuff,” Corey said.
Library funding increased a little last year, but she said it had been frozen for three years. She said library use in Cumberland County remains steady with 27 per cent of the county’s 31,000 having active library cards, meaning they’ve used a card in the last three years.
There has also been a 20 per cent increase in attendance at library programs.