As the holidays and 2016 comes to a close, many students arrived back in St. John’s this past week for the new school term to begin. As students are lining up at the bookstore with their new textbooks and credit cards in hand they may not be aware that their texts are 10 percent more this semester than any other year, thanks to the liberal budget.
NDP Leader, Earle McCurdy spent Friday afternoon at the MUN NDP booth during the Clubs and Societies fair in the University Centre speaking with eager students.
In a sit-down interview with the Muse about the recent book tax, McCurdy said, “I think it’s another example of poorly thought out policy. The Liberals did their pre-budget consultations last winter just part of the provincial budget. The first question they asked people was, ‘what should we cut?’ It wasn’t, ‘what services or programs are important to you?’ The budget reflected that original question because the individual cutting decisions didn’t reflect any cohesive overall plan.”
McCurdy believes that students will be the hardest hit from this decision.
“Students sometimes spend 300 dollars on a single book and it wouldn’t be unusual to spend 1000 dollars each semester. Most of the public or very, very few people would spend that kind of money in a year on books. The heaviest hit will be students because by definition they are buying large and can’t be working full time because they are pursuing education.”
The book tax comes at poor timing as library closures will becoming into effect in the coming year and Newfoundland and Labrador continues to have the highest rates of illiteracy in the country. In 2012, Stats Canada found that 58.6 percent of adults in Newfoundland and Labrador have inadequate literacy skills, the only province in the country that was below average. McCurdy believes now the emphasis should be on three questions: how do we get books into people’s hands? How do we encourage reading? What’s the course we to take to tackle high illiteracy?
McCurdy see’s the book tax as a short sighted cash grab.
“I think it was a case of looking at the budget and saying, ‘we get a million dollars and a couple million somewhere else.’ I saw decisions made where they weren’t looking at the downstream consequences. You’re not really saving at money at all, they may have short term apparent savings, but it’ll catch up with you. It’s a short sighted cash grab and in this particular one, students are the target.”
McCurdy and the rest of the NDP party are doing their best to get the tax reversed,
“It’s an uphill battle of a small caucus against a majority government but we’re at least going to push back on it because if people don’t push back then they are going to keep doing regressive things.”
With files from Emily Bonia.