The Harper government touted in the 2013 budget how it was scrapping tariffs on foreign-made hockey gear, but it turns out duties will stay in place for the single important piece of equipment in this game: helmets.
The federal Finance Department confirmed on Thursday that imports of foreign-made hockey helmets will continue to be subject to an 8.5 per cent levy.
It's an odd omission given that Ottawa is slashing tariffs on most of the rest of the gear used to dress hockey players. Tariffs of up to 18 per cent on hockey equipment imports are being eliminated for everything from hockey gloves, skates and shin guards to elbow pads, shoulder pads and sticks.
Hockey helmets – also made overseas – somehow failed to make the cut. Tariffs are a tax on imports, often for protectionist reasons, that can generate revenue for the government.
The Finance Department had little to offer in explanation, calling the budget measure a "test case" to see if prices on sporting goods will fall as retailers and manufacturers pass on the benefits of the duty reduction to consumers.
It cut tariffs on a variety of sports equipment, including cricket gloves, sailboards and golf clubs.
"The list is not exhaustive, and doesn't include every single piece of equipment produced in the world today," Finance Department spokesman Jack Aubry explained.
NDP consumer protection critic Glenn Thibeault said continued tariffs on helmet imports make no sense today given the widespread interest in reducing concussions in hockey. "We're always telling people you shouldn't play without a helmet."
Mike Moffatt, an assistant professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business, said he thinks the Harper government just goofed because the set of rules governing tariffs is so arcane. "I think it was absolutely a mistake and they simply missed this one. It just shows the complexity of the tariff code."
The Conservative government has reaped a whirlwind of consumer confusion about a separate move in the 2013 budget that will end up raising tariffs on hundreds of imports.
Ottawa is hiking duties on imported goods from more than 70 countries, including China, to help retire the deficit faster – a move that could cost Canadian consumers $330-million more a year in higher retail prices. This measure overshadows the $76-million tariff-rate break for foreign sports gear and baby clothes.