STELLARTON – Wayne Fiander wants the current property tax system done away with and proposes a replacement that would see tax based on either an income or consumption basis.
The Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce executive director spoke at a meeting hosted by the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce Thursday and spoke about the provincial chamber’s initiative to speak out against what he believes in an unfair tax system.
Fiander said the goal in looking for a different tax system isn't to throw stones at anyone, but to simply ask a question: "Are we willing to improve on a 19th century revenue model?"
On average, businesses in Nova Scotia pay 234 per cent more on assessed value than homeowners and receive the same services, Fiander said. In Trenton it's 276 per cent and in New Glasgow and Stellarton it's around 230 per cent.
This he said is unfair and doesn't meet any of the qualifications of a good tax.
Other provinces including New Brunswick and P.E.I. have a cap on the amount that the commercial tax rate can be above residential.
"We like the idea of a cap on the multiple," Fiander said. "It's done in a lot of provinces. We feel that's a more accurate way to assess taxes on property."
He suggested the rate should stay at 150 per cent of what the residential rate is.
Their final and ultimate goal is for the province to investigate the use of either the HST system or income tax or a flat tax and some combination of all three as a means to eliminate property tax. Such a process would take at least five to 10 years, even if everyone agreed, but he said he believes it'd be best for the province.
So far politicians have been leery of the idea.
“They’re afraid to touch it because they’re scared to step out of this little box and have someone throw a tomato at them,” Fiander said.
He hopes with time though that people will get behind the idea though and show leaders that there’s enough public support for it. To that end he offered to speak to local municipalities to talk about the program.
“I’ll go anywhere anyone wants to listen,” he said.
There were only three councillors who attended the meeting, Robert Parker from the county and Lynn MacDonald and Lennie White from Westville.
MacDonald expressed some concern about how the program would be switched over, particularly lifting the cap.
“If you take the cap off you could drive people out of their homes,” she said.
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