Irving Oil making more money on Canaport lease deal

Saint John city councillor Gerry Lowe says there's an even bigger reason the province should consider tearing up a tax agreement with Irving Oil Ltd. over the Canaport LNG property. Lowe points to the falling Canadian dollar, which is generating increasingly lucrative returns as Irving Oil leases the land in U.S. dollars.

Low Canadian dollar working in Irving Oil's favour, while city's tax take still frozen

The Canaport LNG terminal, located on Saint John's east side, is owned by Repsol and Irving Oil Ltd. (CBC)

Saint John city councillor Gerry Lowe says there's an even bigger reason the province should consider tearing up a tax agreement with Irving Oil Ltd. over the Canaport LNG property.

Lowe points to the falling Canadian dollar, which is generating increasingly lucrative returns as Irving Oil collects rent on the land in U.S. dollars.

"It has to play into the decision of the province," said Lowe. "This money has only grown over time as the American dollar (has moved). It's an enormous amount of money.  It's shocking really."

Canaport LNG is built on land leased by Irving Oil Ltd. and even though it is a Canadian-based project, the lease requires Irving be paid rent in U.S. dollars.  According to leasing documents obtained by CBC News, the current rate is $12.25 million US a year, payable in 12 equal monthly payments.

Saint John ward three councillor Gerry Lowe says the low Canadian dollar should be even more of an incentive for the provincial government to repeal the tax deal given to Irving Oil for the Canaport property. (CBC)
The Canadian dollar has been falling steadily since last spring and at noon on Friday hit 68.83 cents.

At that level, lease payments on the LNG property are worth the equivalent of $1.48 million Cdn per month, an increase of $70,000 from last month and $246,000 since April  

In December the City of Saint John sent a request to the New Brunswick government to terminate a special rate given to the LNG property in 2005 that freezes municipal taxes on the land at $500,000 per year for 25 years.  

Currently, the property is assessed as being the most valuable in the province and would owe Saint John more than $8 million per year in property tax without the special rate

City wants deal thrown out

Saint John requested the termination following a series of CBC reports last spring that disclosed financial details about the LNG development including the multi-million dollar lease arrangement on the property with Irving Oil.   

Saint John has a 25-year property tax deal with Canaport LNG that requires the company to pay $500,000 a year in property taxes, a fraction of the $5.3 million it would owe without the deal. (CBC)
The Gallant government has said little about the request other than it would study it.   

Jennifer Graham with the Department of Environment and Local Government says the issue is still being reviewed

"We are considering their request and no decision has been made yet," she said in an email.

Lowe said as the sinking Canadian dollar makes the lease on the LNG property more and more valuable, support will build to end its preferred tax treatment.

"I just hope they're looking at it and will do something about it because we are hurting here in the city."

About the Author

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.

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