North

Nunavut harvesters getting less than 1 per cent of fuel tax rebates, while rest goes to mines

Report says a fuel tax rebate program, meant in part to help harvesters with fuel expenses, is costing more to deliver than it's saving harvesters.

'Total benefit to harvesters remains low,' report says

Nunavut harvesters aren't utilizing a fuel tax rebate program which has been available since 2006, a Government of Nunavut report says. (Nick Murray/CBC)

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main, says a fuel tax rebate program meant in part to help Nunavumiut with the costs of hunting and outfitting, isn't helping Nunavummiut at all.

In the Legislature Tuesday, Main grilled Finance Minister David Akeeagok on the program, eventually getting him to commit to reviewing it.

Main referenced a summary report for the program, tabled in the Legislature in March, 2017.

The report says the program is meant to achieve two main goals: to help reduce fuel costs associated with hunting, fishing and outfitting, and to "promote investments in mining by reducing operating costs facing mining firms."

According to the report, since the program was launched in April 2016, only 0.11 per cent (or $25,800) of the $23 million rebated through the program has made its way back to harvesters. Another $17,878 has gone back into tourism services (likely outfitters), while the remaining 99.81 per cent has gone to mining companies.

When the report was finalized in November 2016, there was still an outstanding rebate application of $3.3 million. Pending its approval, the report indicated how 86 per cent of the total amount rebated through the program, went to a single mining firm, though it's unclear which firm it is.

Cost of delivering program outweighs value to harvesters: report

The program refunds the tax portion applicants pay for fuel. The report doesn't indicate, however, how much of a rebate harvesters are entitled to. Mining firms are eligible to seek a rebate for the full amount of fuel tax they pay. 

"Based on this document, it doesn't appear this program is particularly effective for the harvesters in Nunavut," Main said.

"Will the Minister commit to changing this program to make it more effective for our harvesters, or scrapping it altogether and finding ways to support our harvesters that work for them?"

The report said the costs of delivering the program outweigh the value of the program to Nunavut's harvesters. (Nick Murray/CBC)

The community which has benefited the most from the program at the time of the report was Pangnirtung, with 63 approved rebate applications, totalling $6,952.

Main highlighted that in the two communities he represents, Arviat and Whale Cove, only two applications had been approved since 2006, totalling a combined $53.

Elsewhere in the territory, Chesterfield Inlet, Naujaat and Cape Dorset each had a single application approved since 2006, totalling $141.

According to the report, in 2014-2015, the average rebate paid to each harvester was about $130.60. The following year was slightly higher, however the GN only received 19 applications.

"The total benefit to harvesters remains low," the report read.

"It is likely that the costs of delivering the program (processing applications, issuing cheques, recording transactions, marketing the program, etc.) outweigh the value of the program to this sector."

The report also said the government had worked to increase participation from harvesters, including simplifying forms, sending letters directly to past recipients, and directly contacting Hunters and Trappers Organizations to promote the program.

"At the end of the day, however, most Nunavummiut simply do not bother applying for a small rebate," the report read.

Akeeagok committed to looking into the program's effectiveness, and whether the program could be better advertised to Nunavummiut.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Murray

Reporter

Nick Murray is a CBC News reporter, based in Iqaluit since 2015. He specializes in investigative reporting and access to information legislation. A graduate from St. Thomas University's journalism program, he's also covered four Olympic Games as a senior writer with CBC Sports.

now