By Darrell Cole
SPRINGHILL - Cumberland South MLA Murray Scott is asking Premier Darrell Dexter to clarify his government's position on cutting the gas tax at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border.
Scott has written a letter to the premier expressing concern that cutting the motive fuel tax in border communities such as Amherst will impact other communities in Cumberland County and the rest of the province.
"I would like to know where he intends to draw the line and what area would benefit from a reduced gas tax?," Scott said Thursday.
"If they cut the tax in one area it could negatively impact other communities adjacent to this area. Even within the county we could see two different tax rates and I'm strongly opposed to that."
Earlier this week, the premier confirmed his government will work toward fulfilling a campaign promise by Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar that would see the tax on gasoline lowered in the Amherst area.
Skabar feels a lower fuel tax would level the playing field and stop the flow of motorists across the border to stations in Aulac and Sackville, N.B., where gas is an average five to seven cents a litre cheaper because of the different tax system.
The premier said the timing of the change would likely coincide with the switching of responsibility for setting gas prices to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board in the fall.
Scott said if the province changes the tax in Amherst, it would lead to an exodus of motorists and business from other communities in Cumberland County. He feels the tax should either be left alone or lowered provincewide. He also suggested the three Maritime provinces work together on a uniform fuel tax.
"Small towns are facing many challenges, particularly when it comes to people travelling to larger communities for services and goods," he said.
"These communities will be further disadvantaged if the government charges different taxes at different locations. Drawing imaginary borders will always leave someone on the other side of the fence. It will pit one Nova Scotian against another and give an advantage to some businesses over others."
Jack Martin, who operates Schaefer's Ultramar in Springhill, is concerned with how the NDP plan could impact his business.
Martin feels once the province starts setting differing gas tax rates based on geography, it's going to open a can of worms it might not be able to close.
"We have already seen a considerable drop in business since New Brunswick dropped their tax, this would be devastating," said Martin.
"All this is going to do is entice people to drive up the road to Amherst. You can't have a different price in Amherst, a different price in Springhill and a different price in Oxford. People will drive that far even if there's a difference of only one or two cents."
The Conservatives issued a statement saying several other communities have their share of cross-border traffic. These points are linked to other jurisdictions by ferry services.
By Darrell Cole