Reform: Cuts are not designed to steal businesses away from Nova Scotia, Greg Byrne says

HALIFAX – New Brunswick’s finance minister says his government’s tax cuts aren’t designed to steal businesses away from Nova Scotia – even as the Bluenose province moves toward a tax hike in the near future.

Instead, Greg Byrne says the Liberal government’s tax reductions are aimed at bolstering New Brunswick businesses and attracting new companies from across the globe.

On Monday, Byrne was in Halifax to deliver a luncheon speech at an event organized by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

While his remarks focused mainly on the Graham government’s reasons for selling NB Power, Byrne also highlighted the Liberals’ tax reforms.

Following the speech, local reporters asked Byrne if New Brunswick’s tax regime would lure Nova Scotia companies over to New Brunswick.

Byrne wouldn’t bite on the question, saying New Brunswick is looking beyond the Nova Scotian market.

“Our focus is on the world,” he said. “We think there are many opportunities worldwide that make sense. We believe New Brunswick has a lot to offer and we’re going to go out there selling this tax plan,” he continued.

“Our focus is also on strengthening New Brunswick companies to make them more competitive and more profitable.”

When it comes to taxes, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are headed in opposite directions.

Last month, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter admitted that a tax hike – perhaps a two percentage point boost in the harmonized sales tax – would likely be part of his strategy for fighting the province’s $592-million deficit.

“Tax increases are going to be somewhere in the mix, I expect,” he told reporters at the time.

“What form or how that takes place is going to be part of the conversation that takes place with Nova Scotians.”

The New Brunswick Liberals, meanwhile, are in the process of dropping taxes.

For example, the province’s corporate income tax rate will eventually be eight per cent – half that of Nova Scotia.

And David Gough says the business community is taking notice.

Gough, chair of the Atlantic chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada, said lowering taxes is an excellent way to attract businesses.

“If you can make yourself more competitive – because we live in a globally competitive world – then that’s got to be good news for the businesses and citizens of New Brunswick,” he said.

“I see good things ahead for New Brunswick. It can be a model for other provinces.”