HST on firewood draws criticism from woodlot owners

Island woodlot owners expressed concerned Wednesday over a government decision to apply the new Harmonized Sales Tax to firewood.

Island woodlot owners expressed concern Wednesday over a government decision to apply the new harmonized sales tax to firewood.  

On Tuesday in the speech from the throne, the province announced further details on the tax and a list of exemptions of what it calls, "critically important goods."  

Some of those include, home heating oil, children's clothing and footwear, and most recently, books.  

To see a full list of HST exempt items, visit the P.E.I. government's website

The updated list of tax-exempted items does not include firewood.  

Finance Minister Wes Sheridan said the government doesn't plan to expand its list.   

Bruce Craig, the chair of the P.E.I. Woodlot Owners Association, said woodlot owners weren't happy to hear firewood was left off the province's new list of exemptions from the HST.

"Some of them are quite upset over this and I rightly don't blame them. They felt that when they said they weren't going to tax fuel oil, they should have also done it with firewood because it's still heating fuel," argued Craig.  

Craig points out many Islanders were enticed in the last few years to switch to alternative heat sources, such as wood, through provincial programs, low-interest loans or discounts.

Firewood contractors, including Richard Gill, say the HST exemption for oil is an unfair subsidy of a non-renewable, carbon-based resource.  

Craig worries the higher cost of firewood with HST may create a black market and possibly even hurt P.E.I. forest ecology.

"Because in order for the woodland contractor to be able to cover this cost, they have to do more clear-cutting."  

The woodlot owners told CBC News they will continue to seek a meeting with the finance minister to hammer home their point that firewood should be exempt from the provincial portion of the HST.  

The HST comes in to effect Apr. 1.