ORAL QUESTIONS 3 QUESTIONS ORALES - Property Tax
December 2, 2008 Not finalized
Mr. Alward: Last Friday afternoon, New Brunswickers got a bad taste of one of the oldest tricks in the book: a late afternoon press release telling them that their property tax assessments were increasing. Aside from trying to pull a fast one on the people of the province, the Graham government is now going to collect more money from New Brunswickers than ever before, through increased property axes. However, the government neglected to inform New Brunswickers as to how much the province will collect due to the increase in assessments.
My question is for the Premier. How much money will the province receive from the increase in tax assessments?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: I think it is important to point out that, certainly, when we are dealing with owner-occupied residential properties, the value of those increased assessments accrues directly to the municipalities, not to the province. I point that out because there is an opportunity. If municipalities choose to address the issue by lowering their tax rates, they have the opportunity to do so. These are difficult times. The federal government is looking at how it can practice restraint. Our government is looking at how it practices restraint. I think it behooves municipal governments to do the same. Yes, they have increased costs; there is no question of that. Still, in this time of restraint, perhaps it is time to look at whether they can be a little more prudent in terms of how they manage their budgetary funding. Perhaps they can give a break to the taxpayer.
Mr. Alward: It is interesting this afternoon that the Premier decided not to answer the question. In fact, the Minister of Business New Brunswick avoided the question. My question was related to provincial real property tax. Allowing property taxes to increase so significantly is simply a way for the Premier to implement yet another backdoor tax grab. What is absolutely irresponsible is that this is taking place in the midst of an economic crisis at a level we have never seen before. At the sametime the economy is slowing, at the same time property sales and property values are decreasing, this government has the nerve to try to take more money out of the pockets of New Brunswickers. Once again, will the Premier confirm how much money the government will take from taxpayers through this backdoor tax grab?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: I think that what is important to clarify here is that, despite what we are seeing in the world markets, we are not seeing the same impact reflected in the New Brunswick real estate market. There are projects that represent considerable growth throughout the province, and the numbers do not reflect that. When we look at market sales throughout the province, we have a relatively strong market. It may be that, in the future, there will be changes in the residential housing market, but we can only set the assessment rates based on the facts of what the market is doing in New Brunswick. We cannot set them based on conjecture or on what may happen in the future. We have facts right up to November of this year as to how the markets have performed. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it—the market has been strong. We have a strong, buoyant economy here, as reflected in the price of housing and the assessed values.
Mr. Alward: Let the record show that the Premier again refused to answer the question. Clearly, we have a Minister of Business New Brunswick who does not know, who is completely disconnected from what is taking place in New Brunswick. Perhaps he is spending too much time in a glass house.
The reality of what is taking place here is that we have a perfect storm brewing in New Brunswick. This storm includes increased taxes for individuals, for small businesses, and now for property owners. In fact, the government’s own member for Moncton North has said: “What did we get from this government? What did we get as tools for growth? We got stealth taxation--higher property
taxes through higher assessments.” Will the Premier please tell the members of this House what his plan is to help individuals and families who keep falling further and further behind because of sky-high property taxes?
Hon. Mr. Byrne: With respect to the particular figures, municipal revenues have increased by about $37 million. The provincial revenues, in the 2009 assessment year, would have increases in the area of $24.3 million.