NDP calls on Houston government to cut tax on food in grocery stores
Nova Scotia's New Democrat Party is calling on the provincial government to cut the grocery tax to help people struggling to afford the rising costs of groceries.
Opposition leader Claudia Chender says her party will propose new legislation when MLAs return to the legislature in the fall, but she hopes the province will act before then.
"It would be a point-of-sale rebate on the provincial sales tax," Chender told reporters on Tuesday.
"That's exactly what B.C. does and we believe it's time for Nova Scotia to do that. Grocery bills are skyrocketing."
Most groceries in Nova Scotia aren't taxed but some items, such as pre-made foods, still come with the extra cost.
Products sold in a smaller number of portions may also be taxed, so people who can't afford to buy more are hit with extra costs. For instance, a box of six granola bars is taxed, but a box of 20 is not.
Nova Scotia has already removed taxes from items such as diapers, children's clothing and menstrual products.
In British Columbia, all groceries sold in retail stores are not taxed except for soft drinks and liquor.
Ontario, which uses the harmonized sales tax, offers a point-of-sale rebate of the provincial sales tax on most food items under $4.
As food costs continue to increase everywhere, the number of people living with food insecurity in Nova Scotia is growing.
A report released by the University of Toronto this month says 22 per cent of Nova Scotians were food insecure in 2022 compared to 17 per cent the year before.
"I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that in the last year our family's grocery bill has nearly doubled," said Christy-Lee Bojarksi, a mother of two.
As a working parent, Bojarksi says it's also difficult to cook dinner every night for her family.
"Buying things that are pre-prepared is instrumental to keep our household functioning and having to pay additional taxes on that is a burden we don't need."
Nova Scotians paying more
In an emailed response to CBC News, Finance Department spokesperson Steven Stewart noted that Nova Scotians don't pay tax on basic groceries including meat, fish, bread, eggs, fruit, vegetables and dairy products.
He said the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax (HST) paid in Nova Scotia — which is 10 per cent — is only charged for food that's not considered a basic grocery.
"We're keeping a close eye on the impact of inflation, and we've been providing targeted supports to families to help with the cost of living, including making it easier to access local food," he said.
The NDP says Nova Scotians are having to direct more and more of their budgets toward food. The average family is expected to spend $16,000 on groceries this year compared to $14,700 in 2021, Chender says.
Bojarksi says eliminating the grocery tax would have a huge effect on her family's ability to buy the food they want to eat.
"At this point, we're looking at saving every dollar possible," she said. "We're going through every avenue that we know of to help ease the strain."
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