Cherries, Wedding Cake and Tampons

Depending on where you live in Canada sales tax varies from 5% Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Alberta (The lone province without provincial sales tax, joining territorial residents of the Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territory in provincial tax free bliss ) to a 15% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Nova Scotia. In provinces like Manitoba (8% provincial sales tax – PST) or Saskatchewan with 5% PST, goods and services are taxed at the provincial level followed by the 5% GST (and yes, if you’ve paid attention, that’s tax charged on top of a tax). Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland pay a flat 13% HST. In British Columbia we’re taxed 7% PST followed by 5% GST. So what? Be patient, I’m getting there.

Taxation varies across the land, provincial rates, property tax based on regional assessments or local levies on motor fuel. In Vancouver we pay .15 cents a litre of gas in “transit tax”. Our national constant is GST – regardless of being rolled into a “harmonized” tax or added after provincial tax, the Federal government dictates what is or isn’t taxable goods and services.

Intricacies of GST regulations can be found in the link below – for the sake of brevity, lets focus on basic groceries.In Canada “basic groceries” are tax exempt. Basic refers to supplies of food and beverage for human consumption – essentially products deemed reasonable to sustain life. Edible doesn’t automatically mean tax free – candy, carbonated beverages, snack foods like potato chips are taxed. Consumers are taxed on a single cinnamon bun but not six, likewise a bottle of water but not the case. Tubs of ice cream are considered basic, individually packaged ice cream bars are not. Individual servings of just about everything are taxed (unless marketed for babies). We can buy a tax free chocolate chip bagel but not a chocolate chip cookie. Beer, wine and spirits (as well as beer/wine making kits, grape juice concentrate and de-alcoholized beverages) are subject to taxation. Straying from basic grocery aisles lands you in the realm of befuddling non-essential taxation.

Time to ponder tax exemptions – Canada deemed cocktail cherries and wedding cake tax free essentials, feminine products were another story. Apparently Canadian women shouldn’t mind a luxury tax on tampons, after all they are individually wrapped.

October 16, 2013 Irene Mathyssen (NDP) introduced private member Bill C-282 to Parliament, a proposed amendment to the Excise Tax Act, excluding feminine hygiene products from GST. Private member bills rarely get off the ground – this one was different. Yesterday the Conservatives announced July 1 heralds an end to tampon taxation. However reasonable excluding tampons from GST appears on the surface, I suspect the Conservative government’s moment of clarity stems from this being a election year. I doubt Harper realizes most of his supporters are menopausal. All I can say is it’s about bloody time, who cares why when the outcome makes sense. With that in mind, can anybody tell me why the cherry I plunk in whiskey isn’t taxed, but one covered in chocolate is?