Oct. 4 marks the 457th anniversary of the first printing of the complete English Bible, and Canadian booksellers, publishers, writers, teachers and librarians are observing the occasion in an unusual way. They plan to mail 600,000 bright-yellow postcards to all 295 members of Parliament and nine key senators imploring them to exempt reading materials from the seven-per-cent Goods and Services Tax. The campaign will be part of a renewed offensive by the Don’t Tax Reading Coalition, a group of organizations that opposes the tax. As well, the Torontobased coalition plans to distribute 1.5 million flyers and publish newspaper advertisements, beginning in July, to alert the public to what co-ordinator David Hunt calls the
“devastating effects of the GST on books and other reading material in this country.” Opponents of the tax claim that it has caused sales losses for all publishers: in 1991, national book sales fell by 10 per cent, magazine newsstand sales declined by 10 to 15 per cent and newspaper circulation dropped by five per cent. As well, coalition members outline a host of related problems that they say have been caused by the tax. For one thing, municipalities sometimes redirect partial GST rebates intended for libraries to other uses. Canadian Library Association executive director Karen Adams acknowledged that problem, adding: “For all libraries, the energy and expense required to administer the GST is very frustrating.” Adams stated that the economic consequences have been “drastic,” noting that books, magazines and newspapers have been free of federal tax since Confederation. And coalition members point out that the federal government collected $300 million from the
tax on reading material last year, an amount that they claim significantly exceeded what it spent on publishing subsidies and adult literacy programs combined.
The avalanche of postcards recalls a similar campaign that the coalition undertook in 1990 to protest the imposition of the tax. Said Jacqueline Hushion, executive director of the Canadian Book Publishers’ Council: “The government received more mail on that issue than on the abortion issue and VIA Rail cuts combinedThat campaign did not succeed, but Hushion says that a general election, due in 1993, may convince the Tories to make concessions. Added Hushion: “We hope that the government is sensitive enough to public feeling about cultural issues that it will change its mind. But we really don’t care what the motive is—we just want the tax off.”
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