A collection of power plants, shopping malls, industrial sites and commercial properties are the big winners in a multi-million dollar property tax cut introduced by New Brunswick's cash-strapped provincial government last week, a CBC News review shows.
Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch introduced legislation last Wednesday to cut an estimated $49 million in property taxes for businesses, farms, rental properties and cottages.
The legislation was introduced a day after Premier David Alward expressed concern with declining government revenues and after a warning from Finance Minster Blaine Higgs last winter who said property tax cuts were not affordable.
Still, in the first piece of government legislation introduced following the throne speech, the provincial government set in motion property tax cuts in each of the next four years to a variety of property owners, most of them businesses.
No numbers were given over how the cuts will be distributed, but a CBC review of current tax assessments compiled by the website propertize.ca shows the 10 highest taxed properties will eventually save a combined $3.4 million a year.
NB Power's Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station will be the single biggest winner with a property tax cut of $759,768, followed by:
- NB Power's coal-fired generating plant in Belledune ($411,306)
- Champlain Mall in Dieppe ($397,579)
- the new Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (PCS) mine in Penobsquis ($343,633)
- Irving Oil Ltd.'s refinery in Saint John ($319,546)
- NB Power's oil-fired generator at Coleson Cove ($300,251)
- Regent Mall in Fredericton ($242,360)
- the old PCS potash mine also in Penobsquis ($238,332)
- McAllister Place shopping mall in Saint John ($197,510)
- Irving Paper's east Saint John mill ($194,205).
The tax cuts are being made even though the provincial government has been struggling to control its deficit, which is currently projected to end the fiscal year just below $357 million. That's nearly double budget estimates and is largely caused by declining government tax revenues, which are coming in more than $100 million below target this year.
"Am I concerned about especially the impacts of the loss of revenue," Alward said about the deficit, one day before his government introduced the tax cut legislation.
"I am concerned with that."
But Fitch, who introduced the legislation, told reporters business property taxes are simply too high in New Brunswick and a decision was made to forge ahead despite budget trouble.
"It is a tough, tough decision but again what we were hearing was that we were one of the highest tax areas in the federation and it gives a signal that we are serious about the tax burden that people are being faced on," Fitch said on Thursday.
Property tax cuts were not specifically promised in the Progressive Conservative Party's 2010 election platform and Finance Minister Blaine Higgs flatly rejected them as unaffordable earlier this year during his province-wide pre-budget consultations.
"We have to do this in connection of what our situation is in the province today and we are not in a position to grant big tax concessions in terms of whether it be property tax or whatever," Higgs told a landlord in Saint John in January who pitched property tax cuts as a way to help the economy.
Thousands of properties qualify for tax cuts but the heavy benefit will flow to a few hundred high-value commercial and industrial locations records show.
In total J.D. Irving Ltd. stands to gain about $800,000 as taxes drop on all of its mills, office buildings and network of Kent Building Supplies stores.
The province's three premier office buildings, including Blue Cross in Moncton, King's Place in Fredericton and Brunswick Square in Saint John will save a combined $310,000, while dozens of big box stores will save tens of thousands each.
Costco is likely to save $100,000 on its three New Brunswick stores with Home Depot saving $90,000 on its three.