Taxing the Memory of Soldiers?

Last summer [2010] Ontario and British Columbia merged their GST with their sales tax to create their 13 per cent harmonized sales tax (HST). Unfortunately, this merger affects a Toronto-based factory where millions of Remembrance Day poppies are produced and purchased by the Royal Canadian Legion. As such, poppies are subject to the 13 per cent HST.

Poppy donations raise about $11 million per year, which veterans and their families rely on for important services like dental care and meals-on-wheels programs, to name just two. According to the Royal Canadian Legion, the new HST would cost them an additional $300,000 in taxes.

This issue has raised quite a racket throughout Canada. Luckily, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan became aware of this issue over the summer and recently wrote to the legion to advise veterans they would get a refund on the provincial portion of the tax – about $80,000, according to provincial financial officials. The federal finance minister Jim Flaherty followed this announcement with one of his own, saying that the Royal Canadian Legion will get a full refund of the goods-and-services tax it pays on poppies.

New Democrat Peter Kormos said both levels of government should make sure that poppies are HST exempt from now on. “These are Canadian heroes. These are people who continue to give their lives in the service of Canada and humankind,” he said.

Canadians have worn poppies since 1921. Their symbolism really took force in Canada after Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae wrote his iconic poem In Flander’s Fields during WWI.

In response to McCrae’s poem, Moina Michael wrote We Shall Keep the Faith in 1918, a poem that signifies the importance of wearing poppies in remembrance of our fallen soldiers.

“We cherish too, the Poppy red / That grows on fields where valor led, / It seems to signal to the skies / That blood of heroes never dies… / And now the Torch and Poppy Red / We wear in honour of our dead. / Fear not that ye have died for naught; / We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought.”

 Published in the Virden Empire-Advance. November, 2010.