Saint John seeks 'full disclosure' over Canaport LNG tax deal

Saint John councillors have voted to open the vault on a controversial property tax deal granted to Irving Oil Ltd. in 2005.

Coun. David Merrithew says Saint John wants 'to have a little fairer deal'

Saint John city councilor talks about looking into the Canaport tax deal. 4:43

Saint John councillors voted on Monday night to open the vault on a controversial property tax deal granted to Irving Oil Ltd. in 2005. 

Coun. Gerry Lowe co-authored city council's motion to dig into the financials surrounding the LNG property tax deal.

"It's the full disclosure that we want," said Lowe.

"We want ... a full disclosure of everything that took place in 2005 and what took place in the last 10 years, because yes, it's changed."  

The City of Saint John has withdrawn its tax break on the Canaport LNG site, but a provincial concession continues. (CBC)
The vote was unanimous with one abstention.

The property tax deal, which required an act of the legislature, froze annual taxes on the Canaport LNG terminal at $500,000 with no increase for 25 years.

But recent CBC News reports have revealed Irving Oil has collected $80 million in rent from the property and is guaranteed millions more in payments even if the terminal is unprofitable.

The information was disclosed in an Alberta tax case involving Irving Oil's Canaport partner, Repsol. 

In supporting the motion, Coun. David Merrithew said the company benefits from city services that have to be paid for.

"They look for our fire service to protect them, they look for our police service to protect them. They drive on our roads," said Merrithew,

"We need to have a little fairer deal."

The motion states that "Irving interests" had secured "arrangements respecting the lease and operation of the LNG facility which effectively guaranteed them a very substantial annual revenue."

The motion directs the city manager to examine the documentation identified in recent media reports and to determine if that information was known to either city council or the provincial government when the tax deal was approved.

At the time, then mayor Norm McFarlane told city councillors that he had been assured by then Irving Oil president Kenneth Irving the LNG terminal would not be built in Saint John without the tax cut.

The city manager's office is expected to report back to council within 60 days.

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