Nfld. & Labrador

O'Keefe told 'balance' coming after tax pitch

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe laid out his case Tuesday for a new tax relationship with the Newfoundland and Labrador government.

St. John's mayor tells premier new financial regime needed

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe laid out his case Tuesday for a new tax relationship with the Newfoundland and Labrador government, although he left with no guarantees about what will be in the spring budget.

O'Keefe — who has complained before that the province does not pay its fair share for municipal services — met with Premier Kathy Dunderdale and other officials.

"I think it's fair to say that the premier and her officials recognize that change is needed, and also, if they were here [now], they'd say that change will come about," O'Keefe told CBC News.

"We had a frank talk about the possibility of some changes in the way municipalities, and the city being one of those municipalities, might be funded and financed in the future."

The province turns over an operating grant to St. John's, although O'Keefe says the city effectively subsidizes the government because of the demands for water and infrastructure at large institutions, including hospitals and government buildings.

O'Keefe is pushing for a share of the gas tax, elimination of the province's break on building permits, and a break on the harmonized sales tax that the province collects from city hall.

Finance Minister Tom Marshall, who just last month pointed to a looming deficit to explain why the government has been cool to O'Keefe's arguments, suggested the case is being studied, but put the tax pitch in perspective.

"They would like us to give them more money. It reminds me of when I go to Ottawa and talk to [federal Finance Minister] Jim Flaherty," Marshall said.

"The provinces are always after the federal government for more money, municipalities are after us. We have to strike a balance and we will."

Dunderdale would not comment on the meeting with O'Keefe.

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