Hunting for tax bargains: How we answered the premier's call
Premier Brian Gallant asked for public's help identifying special tax breaks for New Brunswick business
On a CBC Radio show in September, a caller asked Premier Brian Gallant what he was doing about special property tax deals in New Brunswick.
Gallant's reaction? A call for the public's help identifying such deals, or at least what he called "non-equitable" deals.
The premier's appeal posed a challenge: What deals does the province have, who gets them, and what are they worth?
The CBC's search to find out began with legislation that hosts the deals, including New Brunswick's Assessment Act and Real Property Tax Act.
Then came several trips — real and virtual — to the Harriet Irving, New Brunswick Legislature and Saint John Free Public libraries to read explanations from the politicians of the day, between 1966 and 1997, about why each deal was created and how much it was supposed to cost.
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Government and corporate annual reports helped fill in more of the puzzle.
Then came a deep dive into New Brunswick property records — hundreds of them. Service New Brunswick's free map-based property search tool worked beautifully.
But deeper digging required a subscription to New Brunswick's land registry service.
What kinds of taxes are landowners who are covered by tax deals paying compared with others who have no special treatment? Who specifically are the deals benefiting and by how much?
Then it was time to talk.
Attempts to reach larger landowners who were subject to some deal or other were remarkably unsuccessful.
Acadian Timber, J.D. Irving, Limited, Irving Oil, Canadian National, the Bragg Group, Wyman's, Bonnefield Farms all proved elusive.
But other landowners — some covered by tax deals and some not — spoke freely, offering their thoughts and experiences. Also providing useful information and insight, with some exceptions, were New Brunswick government departments dealing with property assessments and taxation.
Edited and packaged by Connie Camp
Video by Paul Hantiuk and Earl Cabuhat