Separate tax zone treats Nova Scotians differently

Darrell Cole
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AMHERST - Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil cannot support any plan that places Nova Scotians on differing playing fields when it comes to paying a tax on gasoline.

Speaking to reporters during a provincewide media conference call, the opposition leader feels that all Nova Scotians need to be treated fairly and equitably and creating a separate tax zone to help communities near the border with New Brunswick is not the answer.

"I don't think we should be building policies around our province that are dividing it," said McNeil. "We've given them a solution that treats all Nova Scotians as equals and is doable."

If government were serious about dealing with the problem, McNeil said it would scrap gas regulations and let competition deal with it. Instead, McNeil said his plan to change the way the HST is calculated on gasoline would give retailers a chance to compete with their peers in New Brunswick while creating a solution that's fair.

"If you stop charging the HST on the excise tax that's there and charge it directly on the base price it will reduce the tax about three cents a litre. The price will still be two cents higher, but if you read Gardner Pinfold he indicates the break even point is about two cents. Once it gets to three cents they will travel," McNeil said. "We believe it's a more logical solution because it's not treating one Nova Scotian different than another and would be the same right across the province."

During Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board hearings on the gas price issue in Amherst on Wednesday, there were suggestions the province create a separate tax zone in Cumberland County that would level the playing field with New Brunswick, where gas prices are usually four to seven cents a litre cheaper.

It was suggested that using the Cobequid Pass toll plaza near the county line would serve as a natural boundary since motorists from Colchester would not pay $8 in tolls for a round trip to gas up in Cumberland.

McNeil said he can't do anything about the decision to place a toll on the Cobequid Pass in 1997, but suggested those outside the county pay the same told to come to Cumberland County as those in the county pay to go elsewhere in the province.

"What I have to do is deal with the problem of today and come with a solution that addresses that problem and is fair to everybody," McNeil said.

Michael Gardner of Gardner Pinfold told the utility and review board on Wednesday that creating a separate county zone would not work because it would only move the problems being experienced in Amherst and Springhill further into the province.

McNeil agrees with Gardner saying what has become an Amherst versus Aulac/Sackville situation would become a Colchester versus Cumberland problem. He feels his solution would leave more money in the pockets of Nova Scotians and give struggling gas retailers a chance to compete.

He also doesn't accept government suggestions that it may not be able to afford tax cuts saying while he does not doubt the province is in a tough financial situation it is entirely the creation of the NDP government.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board

Geographic location: Nova Scotians, AMHERST, New Brunswick Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • Fuzzy Bear
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Robert I know you were trying to make a statement but I'm sorry to say whatever it was its was so befuddled with insignifant and incorrect data that I'm nots sure if anyone understood your point!

  • Robert
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Ahh yes... the toll already seperates us. That's a tired arguement with little teeth. it's like saying everything on the other side of the toll is seperated from the rest of Canada. How often do folks on this side of the mountain go to Halifax as opposed to Moncton anyhow? Even before the toll highway the trips to NB FAR outweighed the trips to Mainland NS. It's a 2.00 toll that you pay, what, a few times a year? Big deal. It affects fewer people in Cumberland that some would like to admit.

    The *tax wall* would be an *official* difference. It would be in the books and it would be law. It would be unfair to anyone outside of the area. As much as people like to use the Toll as a rally point it makes little difference. Most of our business has always been to the north/west of us... not the South/east. A *now and then* payment of 2 bucks (and now and then is a stretch) is a far cry from a drop of 5-7 cents at the pumps. The amounts are so far apart they can't even be compared. No reason the rest of the province has to suffer while we catch a big break. It's not Joe Blow in Halifax's fault the toll is there.

  • Robert
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Okay WTH... how many people are actually affected, or in the same situation, as your example? 5? 10? 25? Not many on a daily basis. The example you cite is the not the norm. It's the exception. The vast population rarely uses the toll on a daily or even weekly, basis. They do, however, fill their tanks many MANY times more. The difference in cost is so wide it's not even in the same park.

    The Toll is a toothless tiger in this arguement. All nova Scotians pay this tax whether we travel past the toll or not. All Nova Scotians deserve the break. Using the toll as the *artificial border so we should get preferential treatment* reasoning doesn't hold water. If we ALL had to pay it every day, as you cite, it would be different. We don't though. 90% of us travel to Moncton to do business and not Halifax. Creating a tax haven DOES create a legal artificial border and that, IMO, is just plain wrong.

  • Not Rocket science
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I'm tired of reading comments from people who ignore the basic facts about the proposal and the reality of the situation.

    The proposal is to have a graduated system of pricing which would eliminate the incentive to drive to another community to fill (no matter what province that community is in). It's not rocket science. And ignoring the logic of the plan shows how shallow the opposition to it is.

    The reality of the situation is that Nova Scotia is losing gas tax revenue to New Brunswick: plain and simple. Again, not rocket science.

    All this talk about the Pass, artifical borders, milk, cigarettes etc. is an effort to distract the public from how little work is actually being done by some politicans for the southern half of Cumberland County, that's all. Again, not rocket science.

  • Fuzzy Bear
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Mr. McNeil says he is worried about dividing the province..........duhhh has he driven up here recently and had to dip into his own pocket for the $8 bucks?? Give me a break ...we are divided and have been since the toll booth was put in. And don't give me that bull about we can't do anything about that now. Where was his glorious party in 1997 huh?? Mr. McNeil...Get rid of the toll between here and Halifax and maybe we'll feel part of the province or as an option move the toll to the NB border and charge everyone leaving our wonderful province $8 just like they do leaving PEI.
    I betcha our local sales and tax revenue would increase dramatically then.

  • WTH?
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Robert, it's not a $2 toll. It's $4 each way for a car or motorcycle, trucks are even more. That's a minimum of $8.

    Yes, to you it may be a lousy $8, but for a single parent or the working poor who might have to take a child to the IWK for medical tests, $8 equals milk for a family of four for a whole week. If even one parent has to make that choice, that's argument enough against the toll.

    And, at a cost of $40 per work week (five days), the toll also means the difference between commuting to a job in Truro and staying in a lower paying job here. Essentially it creates a financial disadvantage for job seekers who reside in Cumberland County.

    At the end of the day, it shouldn't be about the middle-income people who can afford to pay an occasional toll; it's about the added burden it creates for those people who really can't afford to pay it.

  • Joe
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    the toll? the working poor and single moms going to the IWK can't afford to go see their sick children because of the toll. What a powerful image! Too bad its baloney and completely misleading. First off you can still go the old way, its the way I travel but hey I'm local. I have never paid the toll once and I even travel to halifax on rare occasions for trips to the hospital. And ya know what? The road the old way is perfectly fine.

    Separate tax zones is simply a bad idea, bad policy and its obvious to anyone except blowhards and politicans who want to score points (they know too) that this will never happen.


  • WTH?
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Yes a separate tax zone will treat Nova Scotians differently, just like the toll already has for years. The toll highway, I might add, was implemented by the John Savage Liberal government.

    At the time the people of Cumberland County were told a toll was the only way the province could afford to build the highway, and we were promised the tolls would stop when the highway was paid for.

    Not only hasn't that happened but now the toll money is being siphoned out of Cumberland Count and being used to upgrade and twin highways in the rest of the province -- highways that don't have tolls.

    As long as there is a Cumberland County we will have to pay a toll to travel into the rest of the province, so if we don't care that a separate tax zone will treat the rest of the province differently I guess it's because we know there already is a different standard for the people of Nova Scotia... we live it every day.