The New Brunswick trucking industry is warning the New Brunswick government that imposing highway tolls and hiking diesel prices would hurt, not help, the province's struggling economy.
The possibility of bringing in a system of highway tolls across the province was raised in the Liberal government's strategic program review.
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The government is considering a variety of options as a part of its strategic program review in order to find $600 million in cuts or new revenue sources to erase the province's structural deficit.
Jean-Marc Picard, the executive director of the New Brunswick Trucking Association, said tolls are not a good way to promote economic growth.
"We see this as not a good form to promote growth to our province, because trucking is probably one of the most growing industries in the province," he said.
"We create a lot of jobs, we contribute tremendously to GDP and we've got large, large carriers based in this province therefore we want to continue to encourage them to do business in New Brunswick and to grow their business here, so not drive them out."
The so-called Choices report, which was released in November, said a review found that simply putting tolls at the province's borders would not raise a significant amount of money.
The report said eight toll booths could, however, be set up in high-traffic areas. The proposal could raise roughly $60 million for the government.
The report suggested a car trip from Edmundston to Moncton would cost $24 and a roundtrip for a truck between the two cities would cost $96.
This is hardly the first time that a New Brunswick government has looked to cash in on toll revenue.
The Fredericton-to-Moncton Highway was supposed to to be a toll highway. When former premier Bernard Lord won the 1999 election, he removed the tolls from the highway.
Diesel tax hike concerns industry
The trucking industry official is also concerned about another proposal being considered by the New Brunswick government.
Picard said the proposal to hike the diesel tax by 10 cents a litre to 31.5 cents a litre, could also hurt the trucking industry.
The diesel tax rate is already the highest in Canada. Pushing it even higher, however, could raise about $45 million for the cash-strapped provincial government.
Picard says both a tax increase and tolls would hurt industry.
He said he worries some carriers would leave the province if these proposals are implemented and additional trucking costs would be passed on to consumers.
Health Minister Victor Boudreau, the minister responsible for the strategic program review, is holding a series of public meetings to give citizens a chance to express their views on the various options laid out in the report.
Finance Minister Roger Melanson will unveil which of the choices have been picked in his Feb. 2 budget.