Saint John floats idea of heavy truck tax to repair beat-up roads
SAINT JOHN -- A North American first could soon be coming to the streets of Saint John, N.B., though the trucking industry says this first is the last thing the city needs.
City Hall is considering a new tax on transport trucks to help pay for beat-up roads, but opponents say now is not the time to penalize a key player in supply chains.
Any city with heavy industry sees a lot of heavy truck traffic. Now, the city of Saint John also sees potential revenue and it is considering a heavy truck permit. The money would pay for wear and tear on streets, although industry says it's already paying for that.
"We're paying fuel taxes and that's why we're paying licensing fees," says Mary Keith of J.D. Irving Ltd. "We understand that those monies are to go to road repair and road construction."
But some members of city council say the trucking industry is not paying its fair share.
"As a councillor, I have to say to myself now, 'am I going to subsidize heavy industry with taxpayers' money and provide those roads for free, or am I going to ask industry, based on our findings, to make a contribution to roads?'" said Saint John Coun. Donna Reardon.
Industry groups say the truck tax will simply be passed on to consumers.
"The consumer will ultimately have increased costs, clearly not at the right time because of the state of emergency where people are already struggling to make ends meet," says Ron Marcolin of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Residents of a home on one truck route say the heavy traffic is constant, but they also wonder about the "timing" of a tax on trucks.
"Every day … all day … all night," says Saint John resident Seanna Pye. "And especially now with everything going on, they're pretty much the main suppliers for everything."
One estimate says the new tax on heavy trucks would bring in about a million dollars a year for the city.
Company owners like Jim Irving warn the city might pay in the long run.
"It sends a very troubling signal: businesses and jobs that depend on transport trucks are not welcome here,” Irving said.
The truck tax is one of many proposals the city is now considering as it tries to dig itself out of a financial hole that has only gotten worse since the onset of the pandemic.