AMHERST - Roy Pettigrew feels an NDP proposal to level the playing field on gas taxes may have saved his business.
"The gas tax killed my business," said Pettigrew, who was forced to close the West Amherst Petro-Can several months ago because of the differing tax regimes between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. "I lost a third of my business because of the tax. If I were still in business this probably would save me. It's too late for me now, but it might save someone else."
Cumberland North NDP candidate Brian Skabar said Thursday that an NDP government would bring in legislation to ensure that taxes levied on fuel sales in Amherst and other communities near the border would be adjusted to allow gas stations to compete with those in Aulac and Sackville, N.B.
"The price of gas is usually about six cents a litre cheaper in New Brunswick and that is having devastating effects on service stations in Amherst and northern Cumberland County," said Skabar. "The NDP's legislation will help service stations near the border, save my neighbours' time and money and will reduce the loss of gasoline tax revenue to the province."
Skabar said the NDP would mandate the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to study and issue and recommend appropriate pricing to help businesses such as Pettigrew's. He said a similar model is currently in use in Manitoba that adjusts the price of gas according to the distance from the border and eliminates the incentive to cross-border shop for fuel.
The NDP candidate feels such a measure would also enhance the resale value of Pettigrew's former gas station.
While critics will question giving one part of the province a tax break, Skabar counters that people in Cumberland County are already taxed to travel to the rest of the province by the $4 toll on the Cobequid Pass.
Since it adopted regulated gas prices two years ago the provincial government has steadfastly refused to adjust the motive fuel tax, something the New Brunswick government did to help independent gas retailers. The province has dedicated those fuel taxes for road construction.
Pettigrew said the issue is one of taxation, not regulation as alleged by the Liberals.
"The Liberals and some of the press have made a good story with negative publicity on regulation. This is a tax issue, not a regulation issue," said Pettigrew, who noticed many of his regular customers started travelling a few kilometres across the border to Aulac when New Brunswick scrapped the motive fuel tax.