04/17/2013 11:24 EDT | Updated 06/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Jim Flaherty Misled Me With Budget Photo-Op, Says Owner Of Bicycle Shop


OTTAWA - The owner of a bicycle shop where Finance Minister Jim Flaherty last year trumpeted the benefits of his budget says he feels misled.

Despite what the federal Conservatives say, they are raising consumer taxes by increasing tariffs on goods imported from dozens of countries, Jose Bray told a news conference at his Joe Mamma bike store on Wednesday.

"It was a little misleading and I think calling it a tariff and saying we're not raising taxes is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the consumer," he said.

"I feel misled more than anything."

Bray's shop was the backdrop last October for a Flaherty news conference, where the minister announced measures to be included in his 2012 omnibus Budget Implementation Act.

Flaherty declared at the time that he would not raise taxes and would give small businesses a tax credit.

But the Conservatives have increased taxes, said Bray, by way of the tariffs, which will increase prices for a number of consumer products, including bicycles.

NDP critic Murray Rankin said the Conservatives are raising tariffs on bicycles to 13 per cent from 8.5 per cent, an increase the Opposition estimates will cost Canadian cyclists between $5 and $6 million annually.

The New Democrats say Canada annually imports $125 million in bicycles from the dozens of countries covered by the increase.

"Stephen Harper promised Canadians that he would not impose new taxes on them," said Rankin.

"But he is raising taxes on bicycles and over 1,200 types of consumer goods."

The Tories, however, called the New Democrats hypocritical when it comes to tax increases.

"The NDP has a lot of nerve," said Dan Miles, a spokesman for Flaherty.

"The Harper government has been cutting taxes since it was elected in 2006, and the NDP opposed every single tax cut," he said.

"If it were up to the NDP, Canadians families would be sending thousands more in taxes to Ottawa each year."

The rise in tariffs came in Flaherty's most recent budget in March.

The document contained a notice that, starting in 2015, Canada is "graduating" 72 countries previously classified as developing to full developed status for the purpose of tariffs.

The increases are in contrast to the removal of all import duties on sporting and athletic equipment and a few other items that Flaherty highlighted in his March budget.

Those changes could mean lower prices for such things as hockey pants and gloves, as well as baby clothes.

The government estimates that the elimination of duties on sports equipment and baby clothes will cost $76 million a year, while the treasury will gain $333 million annually through increasing other tariffs.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was asked to explain how the NDP, the traditional party of organized labour, could support continued tariff relief for countries with low wages and poor labour and environment laws, such as India and China.

Mulcair acknowledged it's an issue, particularly the trade advantages conferred by lax environmental laws. He said his party wants "reciprocity and a level playing field when we're dealing with our partners."

So would New Democrats actually roll back the tariff increases if they took power? Mulcair wouldn't say.

"When the NDP forms a government, we'll make sure that we make it a priority to deal with countries on an even footing."

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