Off-reserve gas retailers call on New Brunswick to level playing field

Growing calls for the province to review First Nation’s tax
The Independent Gas Retailers of New Brunswick say with nearly all of the taxes paid on reserve land being returned to store owners, they can't compete. Jeremy Keefe reports.

An organization of independent gas station owners says existing tax agreements with First Nations are unfair to off-reserve retailers and want the provincial government to revise the stipulations.

The Independent Gas Retailers of New Brunswick [IGRONB] met with the province’s finance department recently to voice their concerns.

Ninety-five per cent of taxes are returned to retailers operating on reserve land.

Revenue-sharing agreements with New Brunswick’s 15 First Nations for fuel, tobacco, gaming and HST totalled just over $36 million for 2014-15.

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A number IGRONB expects will grow this year.

“First Nations rebates are scheduled to be $47 million in 2016,” said Calvin Grant, owner of Murray’s Big Stop in Woodstock, N.B. “IGRONB expects in 2019 that these payouts could top $100 million.”

“These agreements need to be reviewed,” said Opposition Finance Critic Bruce Fitch.

At the legislature this week Fitch asked the provincial government to review the agreements which he said has “ballooned” by 500 per cent in recent years, and forced many off-reserve stations to close their doors.

“About 85 independent retailers have closed in the last number of years,” explained Fitch. “So not only is it a risk to the independent businesses but also the loss of that revenue is a real concern to the revenue stream that the minister said needs to be protected.”

In a statement Finance Minister Cathy Rogers said “negotiations are progressing” regarding tax agreements.

“Our government values our relationship with First Nations and we are committed to rebuilding that relationship. We want to continue the positive working relationship we have with First Nations and work collaboratively with Chiefs to modernize and improve taxation agreements. Progress has been made by sitting down, talking and working with First Nations on the status of these agreements.”

Rogers also said she met with IGRONB this fall and has a good understand of their concerns and the challenges they face, however Grant indicated despite being told they’d receive weekly updates they’re yet to hear back from the finance department since their September meeting.

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