Big industry tax breaks under fire in Saint John
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- Jobs and city facilities in Saint John could see cuts as the city continues to dig itself out of a $10M deficit. While cuts could mean the end for unionized workers, some blame the larger issue of big industry tax breaks.
Councillor John MacKenzie is frustrated by the slow pace of tax reform.
"A lot of it is painful and really not needed if we had proper taxation in place," says MacKenzie.
And he's not alone.
On Tuesday, representatives of the police and other unions said spending cuts would not be needed if city hall was receiving more taxation revenue from big industry.
"Heavy industry is absolutely not paying the proper amount of municipal taxes here," says Saint John Police Association president, Cst. Duane Squires.
Unions at city hall suggest financial woes plaguing Saint John can be attributed to big industries – and the amount of taxes those industries aren't paying. They point back to 2005 when Mayor Norm McFarlane signed a deal to cap a tax bill for the new L.N.G. terminal and the loss of municipal revenue that followed.
"The mayor of Saint John said – he looked into my eyes and I looked into his eyes – we've got to do this deal on the L.N.G where they paid $500,000 a year, instead of $8M," says Saint John Police Association spokesperson, Bob Davidson. "That came from the city of Saint John."
The city says it wants tax reform, but whether that means heavy industry pays more or if municipalities get more of the province's property tax revenue, MacKenzie says change can't come soon enough.
"People say it takes time for this stuff to happen – well, how long does it take?" says MacKenzie. "It seems to me that if industry needs a tax break, it happens fairly quickly."
J.D. Irving issued a statement on Tuesday calling the union figures misleading; however, he questions whether the city is receiving a fair share of tax revenue from the province.
Meanwhile, the city's municipal election will begin in May, leaving Mayor Don Darling hoping the deficit issue is resolved before voters take to the polls.