Province Will Hold Public Hearings On Hotly Debated Industrial Tax Issue

East side industrial area in Saint John. Image: iStock.

SAINT JOHN – The debate has been heated over whether to tax machinery and equipment in industrial operations, especially in Saint John where the idea has been floated to raise additional tax revenues to help address the beleaguered state of the city’s finances.

Industry stakeholders and individuals will get another chance in early September to have their say at public hearings about Motion 31.

In the spring session of the legislature, Saint John Liberal Party MLA Gerry Lowe introduced the motion to require the province’s standing committee on law amendments to consult with experts and stakeholders and report back to the legislature with recommendations on whether to reduce or eliminate any property assessment or property taxation exemptions or benefits that apply to heavy industry.

“I encourage representatives of heavy industry and municipalities, taxation experts and other stakeholders in our province to provide us with input on the current taxation and assessment system as it relates to heavy industry,” said Justice Minister and Attorney General Andrea Anderson-Mason, who chairs the committee.

They shouldn’t need much prodding to provide feedback. Industry stakeholders have been fierce opponents since the idea was first floated a couple of years ago in a highly publicized debate about whether heavy industry was paying its fair share of taxes.

RELATED: Will New Brunswick Introduce Yet Another Tax On Prosperity?

Critics of the proposal have said New Brunswick businesses and workers would be hurt if the exemption on taxing machinery and equipment, in place since the 1960s, were lifted.

“It’s an obvious bit of political theatre – ‘soak the rich,’ something that plays well in the coffee shops of New Brunswick with those who are covetous of others’ success,” wrote Bob Manning in a Huddle commentary earlier this spring.

“Except taxing machinery and equipment is not a tax on the rich, it’s a tax on jobs and prosperity,” he added, saying that such a tax doesn’t exist in any province east of Manitoba.

RELATED: New Brunswickers Would Benefit From Study And Debate On Proposed Business Tax

In response to Manning’s commentary, Lowe said it’s an issue worth examining given the city resources dedicating to supporting industrial activity and the budget shortfalls it currently faces.

“If business is already paying too much, then that’s what people will hear and the issue will be settled once and for all,” wrote Lowe in a letter to Huddle. “People on all sides of this issue should welcome the study and the debate unless they have something to hide.”

The public hearings will take place September 4-6 at the legislative assembly in Fredericton. Individuals or organizations wishing to make a presentation to the committee have to notify the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly by August 7.