Exactly who is paying the GST again?

By Dave McLean

As if coming back to school after a three-week hiatus isn’t bad enough, the line-ups and waiting times all around campus are sure to drive you mad. While standing around to get your new schedule printed or waiting for a chance to buy some last-minute textbooks, you may have noticed a poster hanging nearby on the wall.

"SU PAYS THE GST!" it reads, and follows with a brief infotainment news story that quotes the always sound-bite ready SU President and his trusty sidekick VP External. The pamphlet tugs on the heartstrings of students as President South claims that, by paying the GST on textbooks in the Used Bookstore, the SU will lose $24,000 in the final half of their budget year, but admits that students need it more than they do.

The sum, which upon a reasonable first glance, seems like a lot of money, in reality is a drop in the bucket for a free-wheeling students’ union. According to the balance sheets for 1998-99, the Used Bookstore alone was expected to haul in nearly $78,000 in profit. For my next trick, I’ll even do the math for you. Take away the GST the SU will be paying to the Feds (according to the su’s figures) and you’re left with a measly profit of $54,000. At a time when all forms of government are getting loose in the wallet department, it’s nice to see our very own campus officials following suit.

Stop the presses! They have offered to pay our GST. Don’t get me wrong, I like a seven per cent discount as much as the next guy, but come on, do they think we’re idiots? When South talks about the students needing the money more than we do, who is the "we" in that sentence? Are we not all SU members or do the guardians of the slc chambers feel as it is their money to spend and save as need be?

If all U of C students form the SU, whose money is it? Who has been paid increasing levies to build a building that doesn’t exist, to form stairs that are coming back for a third time, and pay an overworked Max’s staff? The answer: You and me, and the rest of the SU.

Third question: What about the seller? How does the su’s 20 per cent commission fit in to the scheme of things? The only person that will benefit from this new relief will be the one who walks in and only buys books. The reality of the situation however, is that many of us are forced to sell our books as well, and consequently the SU takes a hefty cut of all sales. Thanks for the break, though.

It is a noble thought really: give the students a break and show the government that taxes on textbooks shouldn’t exist. But it is a thought that may only be noticed right here and now, without an eyelash batted in Ottawa. If it wasn’t for the spin-doctored signs splattered all over campus, many U of C students might never know either.

Maybe next time they do a run on a poster campaign like this one, they will think it through and try to fool the electorate. If they’d done it this way in the first place, the headline might read: "US PAYS THE GST!"


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