Nova Scotia

N.B. budget will help N.S., Steele says

Tax increases in New Brunswick on gasoline and tobacco should help businesses along the Nova Scotia side of the border, Finance Minister Graham Steele said Tuesday.
Graham Steele said the federal budget would help and hinder Nova Scotia.

Tax increases on gasoline and tobacco announced in New Brunswick's budget should help businesses in Nova Scotia, Finance Minister Graham Steele said Tuesday.

Steele also spoke about the affect of the federal budget on Nova Scotia, calling it a cautious plan.

The New Brunswick government's new budget raises the tax on cigarettes by $1.31 per pack, while the provincial tax on gasoline increases 2.9 cents a litre and 2.3 cents a litre for diesel.

"The tax policy pursued by the previous New Brunswick government has been hard, in particular, on Amherst and Cumberland County and I think we've gone a little bit today toward levelling the playing field," said Steele.

The issue of gas prices along the border has been a thorny one for the Nova Scotia government, which has resisted calls to create a special tax zone to help businesses deal with prices that have been significantly lower in New Brunswick.

Last fall the difference was as great as 10 cents per litre under the province's regulated system.

Steele said last spring that gas prices could begin to even out if New Brunswick took the necessary tax measures to deal with its ballooning deficit.

On Tuesday, he was decidedly more careful when asked whether he thought the measures would be the extent of New Brunswick's tax increases.

"Clearly they are starting on the road back to balance and it will be very interesting to see what choices they make in the years to come," Steele said.

Federal budget a mixed bag

The federal budget may spark an election before it comes to pass and Steele said it was a mixed bag of positive initiatives and missed opportunities.

He said he was pleased with new investment in research and innovation and changes to employment insurance. He also praised the extension of the home energy retrofit program.

Steele said he was concerned about the impact reducing Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency (ACOA) funding would have on Nova Scotia's economy.

with files from CBC News