Convenience store owner fed up with high taxes

Raissa Tetanish
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Convenience store owner fed up with high taxes

AMHERST - "Thanks NS gov for high taxes, from NB retailers."

That's what people traveling along South Albion Street have seen for almost a month outside Mike's Drive Thru and Convenience.

With sales sagging due to tax differences between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, owner Mike LeBlanc wanted to put something on the sign outside his store to express his displeasure over the situation.

"I wanted it to be sarcastic, but I also wanted customers and others to know what is happening," LeBlanc said.

In the spring, the province introduced another $10 per carton increase on tobacco products, adding to the difference customers save by going across the border to New Brunswick.

"What bothers me is that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are not even in different countries, so why are they paying less than us.

"I lost between 20 and 25 per cent of my customers after that last increase."

While many have been crying foul over the difference in gas prices over the last two years, LeBlanc said customers today are buying a lot more across the nearby border, instead of shopping locally.

"Whether it's gas, tobacco or even milk," he said, adding he can't understand why the difference in milk prices, especially since there is no tax on milk.

"The Nova Scotia government thinks the province ends in Truro. They don't think about the affect this has on small communities like Amherst."

For the past three or four weeks, LeBlanc said he's had very few comments on the sign since he posted it, however he has had more than 200 customers sign a petition started mid-July. Between his store and a few others around Cumberland County, it's a petition to the government to do something about the difference in taxes, but not just on tobacco products and gas.

For those that haven't signed the petition, LeBlanc said everyone should because it may, in the long run, save them a trip to New Brunswick.

"Maybe it means that New Brunswick puts their taxes up, I don't know, but something has to be done," he said.

Across the border, a manager with the Sackville Co-op Basics Supermarket said the store has seen an increase in customers.

"It's mainly the tobacco that we've seen an increase in, that started whenever the prices increased," she said, adding that milk sales have remained somewhat the same.

"But we have seen the increase in tobacco."

During his campaign for the provincial election, Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar said he would work with the government to have the gas prices in Amherst brought into line with those in New Brunswick.

"I don't agree with changing just the prices here. It should be everywhere, otherwise it's not fair," said LeBlanc, adding Skabar's office is aware of his concerns and the petition, which LeBlanc got help with the wording of from the Canadian Federation for Independent Businesses.

Skabar was in meetings Monday and wasn't available for comment.

After purchasing the convenience store in April, LeBlanc said business was starting to go well in the weeks before the tobacco tax increase.

"Now it's like a morgue in here," he said. "The tobacco end is the worst. I've even had to adjust my prices myself to entice customers to come back and I shouldn't have to do that."

Organizations: Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Sackville Co-op Basics Supermarket, Canadian Federation for Independent Businesses

Geographic location: New Brunswick, AMHERST, Nova Scotia South Albion Street Truro Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • Milk
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    This doesn't help this situation atall, but up here in Ontario, I buy the 4-litre bagged milk for $3.97. You are paying almost that much for only 2 litres. That's crazy.

  • karen
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    I agree us NSers are taxed to death we still be paying taxes when we die

  • Davos
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Sure, the tax thing is bad, but belly-aching about it on your store-front sign isn't good for business either. That's tacky.

  • 4 years of NDP hell
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    I got so tired of high tobacco prices that I quit, maybe some should too as well.

  • Earl
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    read the artical
    and guess what
    people voted for NDP
    and now the same thing is happening here like it happen in other provinces

  • Price
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Out of Town Shopper is right. Saving $ versus supporting the local guy. Ultimately, the *local guy* we all want to help is ourselves, so you do what you gotta do.
    One question: What would happen if retailers like Mr. LeBlanc dropped their cig prices to match the NB price? It would increase sales at his own store, although the income would be lower. But isn't the possibility there that more people coming in to buy smokes are going to end up buying other things, too?

  • IP
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    To Earl Dow: The hike in tax on cigs was one of the Tories last moves before being ousted hold off on blaming the Ndippers, their time for blame will no doubt come soon enough.

  • Dirk
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Ditto IP Freely. Just like the $500 million deficit that the Tories left before handing office over to NDP.

  • Icy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    ......or you could quit smoking.....

  • Bob
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    So the real problem is cigs! People travel 5 minutes to a different jurisdiction to get cheaper smokes, how much cheaper? I don't know what to say to all this except this has always been a problem for any border town and has always been a problem for any community that lives close to a big city.

  • Another 2 Cents
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Sure, cut the taxes on cigarettes, gas, and alcohol. The government will just have to find another way to recoup the loss of revenue.

    Just like the money I'll save by the government removing the PST component of the HST from my power bill.

    What is going to increase to offset the lost revenue?

    I don't have sympathy people who complain about taxes on cigs, gas or alcohol. If it was up to me, increase the taxes even more... it is a choice.

    Yes, I drive... I could probably save money by not driving, rent a car once in awhile, wouldn't have to pay for lease / loan, insurance, gas, maintenance. I could walk more, be healthier, and take a cab for $5 here or there.

    Local retailers also need to take a closer look at their prices to encourage people to stay and shop in Amherst for the staples (milk, food, etc) Perhaps they lower the price on the non-necessities (cigs, gas - offer greater savings in coupon - Superstore), to keep consumers here.

    The government needs so much revenue...they'll find a way to get it. Without it, what programs do they cut, education, health care, roads, etc?

  • know it all
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Out of town shopper from Amherst, N.S writes: I shop in New Brunswick every two weeks because the savings are so great.
    I am currently paying $3.09 per 2L for my milk and I buy ten 2 liters at a time. (savings of $9.30) Interesting to note that Costco in Bayers Lake sells a 2L for $3.09 as well. That's in Nova Scotia Folks! I pay 54.66 with tax for a carton of cigarettes. I buy three cartons. (savings of $66.42) I save between $5 and $8.00 per tank. On three things that I buy every month I save 167.44 why would I buy at home!

    HA ha ,
    Who in their right mind would buy 10 2l of milk that is only dated 6 days ahead ?
    3 cartons of cigarettes ? that almost 2 packs a day - no way
    out of town shopper best thing for you to do is move - the amherst retailers couldn't care less . bye bye

  • Shop local?
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    So... shopping local is great, except when it's for cigarettes. People drive to NB out their own free will to buy things. It's the same as someone driving to Moncton to buy a big ticket item instead of buying in Amherst.

    Regarding the mention in the article on the difference in milk prices.... why is it under $4 at Sobeys in Amherst, yet $4.25 at convenience stores in Amherst? That big of a difference in the same town from convenience stores.

  • Icy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Robert - food and shelter are necessities of life. Cigarettes are not. Quitting smoking is the answer. Then you're saving 100% of the cost of your carton of cigarettes.

  • AmherstGirl
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Let's face it, people smoke, who are we to tell them to quit, if they want to pay the price to smoke and risk the health hazards then so be it as long as they are not blowing their cancer sticks in my face.

    I have never smoked, but the fact is we in NS are over taxed on a lot of things and the gov't still doesn't seem to get it. They really don't get the big picture. Its situations like this that can force smaller retailers to shut down completely which in the end affects not only the people working there and the people in our town but it affects the province because trust me the gov't gets their fair share out of every retailer.

    NB is gaining on our provinces ignorance. In the end this is going to cause our personal taxes to rise because all of our smaller retailers will be forced to shut their doors and the province needs money from somebody.....

    Gas, smokes, or anything.. we are over taxed...

  • UniversityGuy
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I can't believe this. Nova Scotians have always had a higher tax rate then NB. It boggles my mind that people think this is the NDP's fault. Nova Scotia is among one of the poorest provinces in Canada, with a huge national debt to Ottawa. A far larger debt then NB's. So of course our government is going to tax us higher, that's how we're supposed to pay down the debt (in theory). Nova Scotia also has a large smoking population, so why not tax the hell out of smokes? They're doing it to alcohol too. There are enormouse health costs associated with both, and if people are stupid enough to pay for their addictions, let the government tax the fools, otherwise if you're going to smoke, just bare with it. Nothing is free anymore.

  • Out of town shopper
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I shop in New Brunswick every two weeks because the savings are so great.
    I am currently paying $3.09 per 2L for my milk and I buy ten 2 liters at a time. (savings of $9.30) Interesting to note that Costco in Bayers Lake sells a 2L for $3.09 as well. That's in Nova Scotia Folks! I pay 54.66 with tax for a carton of cigarettes. I buy three cartons. (savings of $66.42) I save between $5 and $8.00 per tank. On three things that I buy every month I save 167.44 why would I buy at home!

    About 90% of my grocery budget is spent in N.B since I'm already there to buy gas, cigarettes and milk anyway (it pays for the trip). The same goes for Christmas shopping.

    My family easily spends over $1000/month on staple products. Not to mention other Luxury items that I buy for my family and things like building supplies. For example, I saved at least 20% on my last two major appliances plus the delivery costs from Moncton were half of local vendors here in Amherst.

    Nova Scotia should get their act together. They're losing more tax in our area than they are gaining with hikes. Our local businesses may want to rethink their pricing too. I would be a fool not to take advantage of the savings.

  • Robert
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I love the response... *or you could quit smoking*. Yep. That's the solution. Using that logic. Gas tax too high? Don't drive. Property tax too high? Live in a tent. Groceries too high? Don't eat.

    Sarcasm aside it's not that habit that is doing the damage in this situation... it's the tax plain and simple. The NDP instituted this new tax because they said the PC's were going to do it anyway. So what? Did they have to do it knowing full well we are already suffering in this area? They could've held off and rethought it instead of just instituting it and blaming it on the past government. It's time the government actually did something to fix this sooner than later.

  • Moriarty
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I have it on good authority that it was Skabar's office that gave LeBlanc the idea for a petition in the first place.

    C'mon Mike, be honest, and while you're at it, instead of showing the ADN your petition you should be dropping it off at Brian's office, it's right downtown!

  • Disgruntled
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    To IP freely . . . you cannot blame the tax increase on the Tories . . . they were voted out because of their decisions and the NDP chose to keep the tax increase.
    And to Dirk digler - we shall see what the books are like in 4 years . . . I'm sure the supporters of the next government will be saying the same about the NDP

  • Puctuation
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    That sign is a little confusing, as there's no punctuation.
    To me, it reads as though the One Stop store is saying the high taxes are being levied by the NB retailers at the behest of the NS Gov. (rather than the taxes being levied BY the NS Gov).
    Do the sign makers not produce commas and periods for those types of displays? Perhaps some black hockey-stick tape would work.
    I'd suggest: *Thanks NS Gov for high taxes. Love, NB Retailers*

  • Local
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I totally agree on this 100%. I go to Aulac to get my gas & my cigarette's...I pay 9.85 for a pack in Sackville and here you would pay well over 14.00 a pack so it is well worth the drive. I think that it should be the same as NB prices. I know alot of people that drive across the border, especially for fuel. Something needs to be done, it is hurting alot of businesses in Amherst.