Question Period Highlight – Transparency of $30 million corporate tax break

October 30, 2014

Your NDP MLAs are hard at work in the legislature this fall, holding the government to account during Question Period on a number of key issues, including job loses since Stephen McNeil became Premier, and how the Liberals’ health board amalgamation distraction is causing their government to take their eye off what really matters – front line care. Here is a question NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald asked Stephen McNeil about posting online the details of the businesses that receive his $30 million tax rebate.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question again is to the Premier. This Spring, the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism said they were delivering on their promise of, and I quote, “. . . accountability and transparency when it came to investments being made . . .” on the taxpayers’ behalf. I’ll table that.

In total, I’d like to ask the Premier, which ERDT programs that award public cash to corporations will be posted online?

STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I’ll let the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism respond to that.

MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I believe to date, all of the investments made by Nova Scotia Business Incorporated have been posted. I believe the investments made for the Yarmouth ferry have been posted as well. I’ll have to verify and see if there are any other specific programs, but any of the programs that remain in ERDT are programs that applicants would apply to and it would be a process. It’s not a decision that would make it to the ministerial level. In fact, the CII program, which used to be in our department, will now be over with NSBI for their administration.

I would remind the honourable Acting Leader of the NDP in case she wasn’t aware that the website she is referring to – Nova Scotia is the only province in the country that has such a transparent website for economic investments in the province.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: I thank the minister very much for that answer. On October 22nd, the government introduced a new tax incentive and rebate program that could dole out $30 million to big business in this province. It will be administered, I believe, by the Department of Finance and Treasury Board.

My question to the Premier is, will the Premier commit to posting that particular tax break online in the same format as other investments being made by ERDT?

STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism.

MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the tax credit itself only applies to investments of over $15 million. I’d love to say that we have a ton of companies in Nova Scotia that would be looking to make such investments. Unfortunately, there is a very limited amount; I believe most members would probably be able to guess which companies those are.


MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. In April the Liberal Government announced a new website where information about provincial investments and companies will be posted. At the time the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism was quoted as saying, “Nova Scotians now have more access than ever before, so they can understand the reasons for, and the result of, investments made on their behalf.”

Yesterday I asked the Premier if the new big business tax break, which would cost taxpayers $30 million, will be put on this website. My question to the Premier today is, would he provide an answer to that question that he wasn’t prepared to provide yesterday?

STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the honourable member that the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism continues to provide leadership in ensuring that department is the most open and transparent it has ever been in our history. Every Nova Scotian will know, when we spend their tax dollar, how it is being spent.

MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well again I didn’t hear whether or not the new big business tax rebate would be posted on this website. I want to ask the minister responsible for the website, will the new big business tax credit be posted in a transparent fashion on that website?

MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the large capital tax credit that we have provided mirrors a federal tax credit, the Atlantic Investment Tax Credit, which currently exists for companies within the Atlantic Provinces. The federal government, through Revenue Canada, will be administering this tax credit on our behalf. Staff are currently working with our federal partners to find out exactly how much information we can disclose because of federal guidelines.

It is certainly our hope that those negotiations are going to result in our ability to post that information.