Nfld. & Labrador

NDP calls new book levy a 'million-dollar tax on students'

Earle McCurdy was at Memorial University Tuesday, talking to students about how the provincial book tax is affecting them.

MUN students say tax causing them to cut back in other areas of their lives

Newfoundland and Labrador NDP Leader Early McCurdy spoke to students at Memorial University Tuesday regarding the book tax which he said is especially unfair to them. (CBC)

New Democratic Leader Earle McCurdy used a campus visit to Memorial University Tuesday to call on the Newfoundland and Labrador government to reconsider a controversial provincial tax on books. 

"The tax on books is, by our rough estimate, a million-dollar tax on post-secondary students," said McCurdy, who spoke with students about how the book tax — which came into effect on Jan. 1 — is affecting them. 

"This is the worst kind of regressive tax. It targets students who are working hard to get education, which will allow them to contribute in many ways to this province."

McCurdy spoke to students in the University Centre, before making a speech which demanded government reconsider the tax when it presents its spring budget.

He said with each course at MUN requiring an average of $150 worth of books to be purchased, full-time students can end up paying as much as $100 in taxes for the semester. He said that would total almost $1.1 million for the 12,000 full-time undergrads that go to MUN.

Simon Pope is a 3rd year history student at MUN, and says he has considered not buying books due to the high prices this year. (CBC)

Few options

Some of the students at the NDP event on Tuesday talked about how the book tax means they have to cut back in other areas of their lives.

"It's so financially debilitating," said Simon Pope, a 3rd year history student. "I don't have extra money, and textbooks are already overpriced. I have to buy cheaper food, or go out less — but often it just comes down to not being able to buy books."

Emma Lang is from the U.S.A. and is at MUN working towards her PhD in Folklore. She said international students are already paying a hefty price to study in Canada and the book tax just hits them even more. (CBC)

International students were also at MUN to express their frustrations, saying it hurts them extra hard as they already deal with more expensive tuition than locals — and in many cases face a higher cost of living compared to where they come from.

"We pay a higher rate for everything," said Emma Lang, who came to MUN from Cambridge, Massachusetts to do her PhD in Folklore.

"A domestic student from Toronto may be able to order the books online and pick them up at home over Christmas. We don't have that option. If we're ordering them at home they're flying and we're paying the shipping tax."

Lang said she's even considered buying books online to be shipped to her home in the U.S., to then have them mailed to St. John's, as a way to avoid the book tax. However, she said that can take weeks which isn't really a good option either.

With files from Amy Stoodley