AMHERST - Robert Bird believes Amherst needs to have a Boston Tea Party moment when it comes to sending a message to the province about possibly increasing the harmonized sales tax by two per cent to battle the deficit.
"There comes a time when people have to say enough is enough. I think we've reached that point," said Bird, who is urging local businesses to use their portable signs to ask Finance Minister Graham Steele not to increase the tax. "We want to give the minister a warm welcome to town and tell him in no uncertain terms that nobody around here supports any kind of a tax increase."
Steele will be in Amherst on Monday to speak at the Amherst Lions Club as part of his Back to Balance provincial tour. The meeting runs from 7-9 p.m., and Bird is hoping retailers and members of the public will show up in force to let the minister know the town can't afford a tax increase.
Bird, a financial planner and town councillor, said the potential tax increase will be bad for business and has the potential to force more shoppers across the border to stores in New Brunswick.
While he understands the need to clean up the province's finances, Bird feels it's up to government to fix its own mess without turning to the public all the time.
And considering how MLAs have mismanaged their expenses, he feels the province owes it to Nova Scotians to fix the budget without hiking taxes.
"Two per cent is just another gouge we cannot afford. It's like death by a thousand cuts to the small businesses and the mom-and-pop operations," Bird said.
"This won't impact the Wal-Marts of the world, but two per cent off the bottom line will cut into already small margins for small business owners."
Jeff Brennan of Fort Equipment is watching the situation very closely and is worried what the increase could mean.
"More than half of our business comes from Westmorland County and then we have a lot of people from here that we could lose as well," Brennan said. "It's something we're worried about."
His business that specializes in farm equipment and lawn and garden products has already taken a hit from the struggling fortunes of the agriculture industry. He's not prepared to say a tax hit could threaten the business, but it won't help it either.
Brennan said New Brunswickers who purchase material at Fort Equipment and have it delivered to their home or address pay the New Brunswick tax. However, he said, many customers may not know that and could turn to their competition.
Amherst Mayor Rob Small said council hasn't meet to discuss the issue, but he personally is afraid of what the increase could mean to this community and the rest of the province.
"Adding two per cent to the HST is going to cause a lot of pain," he said. "We just had the utility and review board here to talk about the tax on gas and now you're talking about another two per cent on the HST. It's going to be very detrimental."
Small is hoping the minister will take a long look at government operations before proceeding with the tax increase.