GUYSBOROUGH – On April 8, Nova Scotia’s Finance Minister, Allan MacMaster, tabled the Finance Measures Act, which levied a provincial tax of $2 per $100 of assessed value on non-resident property owners effective April 1, 2022.
Reaction from part-time residents was swift and negative. Many reported that they might have to sell their homes in Nova Scotia under the new tax regime which would more than triple their yearly tax bills in some locations, notably those owning property in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG), which has a residential tax rate of 77 cents per $100 dollars of assessment.
Expecting that the new tax will negatively impact rural areas, MODG Warden Vernon Pitts sent a letter to the Premier’s office, dated April 11, outlining the municipality’s many concerns about the new tax and its aftermath.
In the letter, Pitts highlights five key points, the first being that deed transfer and property taxes are tools to create revenue for municipal government, not provincial government. The second point notes that MODG taxes are low to attract people and businesses to the area; the provincial tax will counteract that effort. The letter goes on to say that the tax is unfair, unexpected, exorbitant and not what people signed up for when they bought properties in the MODG.
The fourth point in the Warden’s letter details the contributions that non-resident property owners make in rural areas: the goods and services they buy, the volunteer work they do, and the business opportunities they create.
And finally, the letter states, MODG knows the housing issues at play in their area. Councillors don’t believe the new provincial tax will do anything to alleviate those issues in rural areas such as the MODG.
On Tuesday morning, April 19, The Journal spoke with Warden Pitts about the provincial tax announcement. He said, “The thing about this was, there was absolutely no consultation with the municipal units, which is not right, it’s not fair. We’re supposed to be a partner of the province and they’re turning around and now they are going to tax property. That’s a municipal jurisdiction, that’s not provincial. To quote a former warden of the municipality, Lloyd Hines, one of his favourite sayings was, ‘Stay in your own lane.’ The province has their own jurisdiction, we have ours. And we should each stay in our own lanes.”
Pitts said a blanket policy, such as the new provincial tax, does not address the variety of situations pertaining to housing across the province; issues in rural areas are different from those in larger centres such as Halifax and Sydney, “one size does not fit all.”
When asked what he would like the provincial government to do now, regarding the new property tax, Pitts said, “I would like to see them stop this, repeal it, and sit down and start negotiating. How are we going to collect this? Should we, first and foremost, be going down this road? There are different ways to do things here. Is this the best way? I don’t think it is. I think they should be negotiating with the municipal units.”
Pitts said he has been in conversation with other municipal units within the province about the new tax, “and none of us are pleased with it.
“I think the municipal units are going to have to get together and fight this,” he said.
“This has the potential to do more harm than good,” he said. “I don’t think it was well thought out. And maybe, theoretically the idea was good, but when it comes down to practicalities, I don’t think it’s the proper way to go.”
Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal