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."