A local publisher says a new tax on books introduced in last week's Newfoundland and Labrador budget will be damaging to the province's literary community.

Gavin Will, owner of Boulder Publications in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, says he was shocked to see the tax listed in the finance portion of the budget.

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Boulder Publications owner Gavin Will thinks increasing taxes on books will have drastic consequences for the province's book industry. (CBC)

It was a complete surprise," said Will. "Certainly there was no hint of this during the government's budget consultations that it would be happening."

Will, an NDP supporter, said the budget outlines a new 10 per cent tax on book sales in Newfoundland and Labrador, which would be added to the current five per cent federal GST. The tax would apply to virtually all books sold in the province, with only a few exceptions.

If implemented, Newfoundland and Labrador would become the first province in Canada to have its own tax on books. Nova Scotia and P.E.I. looked at similar motions a few years ago but later abandoned the idea.

An immediate effect on sales

Will said increasing taxes on books to 15 per cent is worrying for publishers, readers and anyone concerned about literacy.

"It's going to have an immediate effect on sales, I believe," he said. "We are already a small province, and the literacy rate in Newfoundland and Labrador is the lowest in Canada."

Will says another negative consequence of the tax is how it will affect the bottom line of local publishing companies like his own.

"Because we will be the only province with a provincial sales tax of this type, we will be placed at a competitive disadvantage with all other publishers in Canada — and that's simply not fair," he said.

"It sends a message that the government doesn't necessarily care about literacy, authors or the book publishing sector."

Will said he has meetings planned with other publishers later this week, and there is a plan to rally educators and literacy advocates to try and mount a campaign to convince government that the new book tax is a dangerous measure.