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Subscriber Chuck Schaeffer has mostly good things to say about two fishing trips in Ontario handled for him by Grindstone Angling, a fly shop and outfitter in the town of Waterdown (www.grindstoneangling.com). Here is an edited version of his comments on the trips.
“I became aware of Grindstone Angling and the great smallmouth bass fishing on the Saugeen River in Ontario while watching an installment of the “The New Flyfisher” television series several years ago. I wound up fishing with John Valk, the owner of Grindstone Angling, and his guides for three days on two different occasions. They were all very likable and intelligent people. They teach as well as guide. They were the first to use drift boats on the Saugeen, and they are expert with them. They are among the best guides with whom I have fished in my more than 20 years of traveling to fish.
“My first trip with Grindstone Angling was in August 2011. Naturally, we focused on catching smallmouth bass. The results were wonderful, with eight smallmouth bass at or slightly larger than 18 inches, plus a huge, heartstopper of a fish that got away. My second trip was in October 2012, and this time we focused on steelhead. The fishing was great. I caught one steelhead in the first hour of the first day and another larger one of about eight pounds on the second day. I also caught a large salmon when I tried to skate my fly past it to a steelhead immediately downstream.”
In a less positive vein, Schaeffer goes on to complain about a 13 percent Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) tacked on to the cost of his bill. “The advertised daily rate for the fishing,” he writes, “was $495 per day and worth it, but the bill I was handed was for $559.35 per day. That amounted to a $193 invoice surprise for three days of fishing. Valk’s reaction to my complaint was to say he has no control over taxes applied by the government. I understand that, but I don’t live in Ontario and I was not aware of this sales tax on guided fishing until the end of my second fishing trip. I think it should have been mentioned up front. Why didn’t I notice it after the first trip? I didn’t receive an invoice for that trip, just a lump sum statement that I didn’t examine.
“I’m old enough to remember when you got a motel room for $25, you paid $25 when you left in the morning. Now you get a motel room for $100 and pay $117 or more when you leave. I hate it. It’s common, done all the time, and dishonest. Obviously, nowadays, in addition to asking how much it will actually cost to stay in a motel overnight, you also need to ask how much it will actually cost to hire a guide for a day.”
Don Causey Note: In fairness to John Valk, he says he notifies all clients that his rates do not include applicable taxes. And, indeed, it is not his fault that the HST is so high in Ontario. What John Valk did not know (nor did I until I looked into it), is that there are steps Valk and other Canadian agents and guides could be taking to mitigate the tax burden on non-Canadian clients like Chuck Schaeffer – namely, they could be encouraging clients to book package trips that include accommodation along with guide service. Trips sold that way become what are called “qualified tours.” A client who books a qualified tour and pays a single bill for all services provided can file for a rebate of half of the HST. Different percentages apply in other provinces, but the amount that one can get back is significant throughout Canada. The bottom line for non-Canadians is clear: don’t fly to Alberta and book a week of guided fishing on the Bow River, for example, without exploring the possibility of turning that trip into a “qualified tour.” No, your guide may not be up to speed on this, as witness John Valk’s reaction to the facts presented here. “I was under the impression that HST (combined federal and provincial taxes) was not subject to rebate the way the federal Goods and Sales Tax (GST) used to be subject to rebate. I was not aware of the ‘eligible tour’ information you have sent me, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. I will definitely inform customers of the advantage of rebates moving forward.”