Tariffs are enjoying a bit of a resurgence of late. The Americans hit us with tariffs on steel and aluminum, and on Canada Day we responded with a scattergun blast of retaliatory tariffs on everything from ketchup to lawnmowers.
On the whole, this is a painful exercise for a country that is normally fanatically pro-free trade. With an average tariff rate of only 1.56 per cent, Canada is one of the least tariff-ey countries on earth.
But within that 1.56 per cent, the federal government is still slapping secret taxes on a lengthy and Byzantine list of everything from coffee machines to high heels to coffins. Below, a quick tour through the Canadian tariff schedule, one of the country’s most baffling government documents.
NOTE: Unless specified otherwise, the tariffs listed below are the “most favoured nation” tariff; the rate that must be paid to import from a country that does not have a free trade agreement with Canada. While Chinese products are subject to the MFN rate, it does not apply to the U.S., the E.U. and more than a dozen others.
An awful lot of the tariff schedule makes no sense whatsoever
Oak flooring is subject to a 3.5 per cent tariff, but maple flooring is free. An umbrella is tariffed at seven per cent, but 7.5 per cent if it has a telescoping shaft. Jukeboxes that play records are free, but 5 per cent if they play CDs. Discount women’s running shoes are 18 per cent, but high-end Manolos are only 11 per cent. A staple gun is tariffed at 3.5 per cent, but that rises to 6.5 per cent if they’re sold in packs of two. Every pharmaceutical in the world can be imported free into Canada, save for a specific type of gel used in medical examinations. Almost everything made out of copper is tariff-free in Canada, except for copper coffins (9.5. per cent). Imagine if the GST worked like this: A pack of gum would be taxed at four per cent, while tic tacs would be inexplicably taxed at six per cent and jawbreakers would be tax-free. It would be comforting to assume that there is some grand plan behind the madness of the tariff schedule, but in reality it’s mostly just chaos. “There often is very little logic once you really start to look into the tariffs,” …read more