© Darrell Cole – Amherst Daily News
Amherst Rotary Club member Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin talks to Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter (centre) and Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar after a roundtable.
AMHERST – The border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick is continuing to be a barrier to trade and commerce between the two provinces and an obstacle to economic development in Amherst, a business crowd told Premier Darrell Dexter on Monday.
Dexter, who attended a roundtable with members of the Amherst Rotary Club, was told differing regulations and tax systems are making it difficult for companies on both sides of the border.
“The Missiquash River is like a wall. Being a bordertown community is working against us,” Rotarian Morris Haugg told the premier during the 90-minute meeting. “We need to have greater co-operation between the three Maritime provinces. That doesn’t mean unification, but we need to do away with the barriers that are interfering with business across the border.”
Rotarian Alan Morrison questioned differing rules for the construction industry, electricians and plumbers that are serving as a barrier to commerce between this province and New Brunswick.
The premier said he is well aware of the barriers that exist and he is working with his counterpart in New Brunswick to overcome some of these difficulties. One area that is a big concern to Nova Scotia businesses, he said, is taxes.
“In know the difficulties faced by bordertowns, especially the tax difference,” the premier said. “I’ve talked to Premier Aylward about it and he says he has the same problem communities along the border with Quebec.”
Cabinet, he said, is committed to reducing the HST to 13 per cent in the next few years as the province’s finances come back to balance. He also predicts the tax difference may shift the other way.
“New Brunswick is dealing with its own debt burden. They are resisting the tax issue, but in my opinion sooner or later they are going to have to do something about it,” Dexter said. “They have passed us on per capita debt and eventually they will pass us on actual debt.”
The premier was asked why some local firms can’t get a payroll rebate to create jobs because some of their workers are from New Brunswick. Dexter said it is an interesting situation and one he intends to explore.
He also suggested the province is going to target its rebate system to focus more on creating jobs for younger people, including recent graduates of post-secondary institutions.
Town councillor and Rotarian Robert Angel said more needs to be done to promote Amherst as a hub of the Maritimes and he suggested the province needs to look at Amherst as a location for a government office.
The premier agreed Amherst is a hub for the region and the gateway to the province. He said he’s also impressed with Amherst’s can-do attitude.
He admitted moving jobs out of Halifax to rural areas of the province has been difficult, but said it’s the right decision moving tourism jobs to Windsor, aquaculture jobs to Shelburne and agriculture jobs to Truro.