Shooting the other foot

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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The Ghiz government most certainly shot itself in the foot over Plan B, a gift that will keep on giving to opposition parties for years to come. They now seem to be taking aim at the other foot regarding their decision to exempt taxing heating oil on the one hand, but fully taxing firewood and wood-burning appliances on the other hand.

Provincial governments have always exempted firewood and wood burning appliances. I recall having a series of exchanges with then-finance minister Gilbert Clements in the 1990s about the contradiction between having a policy that supported biomass heating, but proposing to tax wood-burning appliances. Gilbert, a Liberal, to his credit, saw the error of his ways and removed PST on wood-burning appliances.

But here we go again. Exempting heating oil is nonsensical. It is, effectively, an unfair subsidy of oil, a scarce, non-renewable source of energy that contributes mightily to climate change with many ancillary environmental impacts. (How many oil spills occur on P.E.I. annually?)

Wood is P.E.I.'s principal domestic, renewable source of energy, along with wind power. Burning wood creates hundreds of jobs for rural Islanders and saves the roughly 60 per cent of homeowners that use wood for a portion of their heating needs countless millions of dollars each year. Those people include many of our poorest citizens.

I am not aware that the oil industry generates any jobs on P.E.I., apart from the delivery truck guys. Burning wood also facilitates the proper management of Island woodlots when people follow their management plans. Providing a clear disincentive to burn wood in its various forms by applying the HST goes against the policies of all recent P.E.I. governments and, frankly, makes no sense. At a minimum, it will aid and abet the underground economy that governments so despise.

If you add the votes of P.E.I. woodlot owners (at least 24,000) to those of the homeowners that burn wood, you get a number that will easily elect a majority government. The other Liberal foot is looking rather exposed at the moment.

Bruce McCallum,

Hunter River

Geographic location: P.E.I., Hunter River

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