Full Overhaul Needed of NB’s Broken Property Tax System

commentary by Rosaire L’Italien in The Daily Gleaner
A tax system in crisis. $50 million in fabricated renovations. Public trust compromised and eroding. The New Democratic Party has been calling for a full overhaul of this province’s broken, incomprehensible and unfair property tax system for some time and this recent crisis reaffirms that.
Currently our property tax assessment system is a tale of two New Brunswicks.
It’s the best of times for the large corporations, which are being given endless tax breaks by not having their property tax assessments increased since the 1970s, which has cost this province hundreds of millions of dollars…
And it is the worst of times for thousands of everyday New Brunswickers who, through no fault of their own, have seen their property taxes skyrocket through the roof with no explanation.
New Brunswickers are frustrated when they see their property values decrease and their required tax payment increase. What further exasperates New Brunswickers is properties in the same neighborhoods assessed at different values, with the lesser valued property paying a higher tax bill. This is totally unacceptable.
According to Premier Gallant this problem has been with us since 2011. Premier Gallant stated that the same errors were committed in 2011 under the previous Progressive Conservative government of David Alward. This illustrates a pattern where New Brunswickers have overpaid their tax bills for a number of years. It must be determined whether political interference occurred in both 2011 and 2017.
We also believe that accountability begins and ends with the Premier. Our Premier has not been one to accept responsibility for the government’s actions and decisions. We have seen in many instances where the Premier and government placed the blame with staffers and the civil service. We have seen this recently with safety standards at Parlee Beach and financing for the Bas-Caraquet shipyard being blamed on civil servants rather than Ministers taking responsibility for things that went wrong on their watch. We urge the Premier and his ministers to lead and accept responsibility not only in this matter but in any issue where public trust has been eroded.
What the New Democratic Party knows is that the two previous governments cut jobs in Service New Brunswick. We believe that this reduced workforce contributed to the hasty assessments compounded by possible interference from the Premier’s office.
We applaud that Justice Robertson will lead an inquiry into how property assessments are done. While we support an inquiry, we feel that Justice Robertson should be given a broader mandate beyond just the recent assessment processes, and undertake a full-scale review of the property tax system. Our hope is for a more open taxation process that takes away sweetheart deals given by the province to large companies behind closed doors, where their properties are not assessed for 40+ years. We need a system that’s fair across the board. We also feel that any inquiry into this issue requires full public disclosure: recent changes to the Inquiries Act will give Judge Robertson authority to restrict public access to information or prohibit public reporting. This could allow for hearings to be held in private. That would be unacceptable to New Brunswickers.
Finally, we are more than a little confused that at the exact same time as the Premier announced Justice Robertson’s inquiry he also announced that the property tax assessment branch of Service New Brunswick would be made “independent.” That seemed an awful lot like announcing the inquiry’s recommendations at the same time as launching the inquiry. Our hope is that “independent” does not mean privatized in the eyes of the Premier. Privatization will lower standards of work and lower the standard of living for workers. Giving control of property tax assessments to for profit private companies has been tried elsewhere with negative results, and is the wrong move.


New Brunswick Can’t Afford Ontario’s Mistake

Further to our previous statement on the property tax scandal, the New Brunswick New Democratic Party has serious concerns that property tax assessments will be turned over to the private sector.

We have seen privatization happen in Ontario, and the results are clear that this is wrong. Most provinces use arms-length independent Crown Corporations to conduct property tax assessments that are free from political interference.

Ontario has privatized their assessment process. Costs for the average homeowner rose, privatization resulted in layoffs, reduced oversight and services.

We reiterate that Justice Robertson must be given a broad mandate to investigate this scandal fully and completely and all information must be made public.

NDP Statement on Property Tax Assessment Scandal

New Brunswick NDP Interim Leader Rosaire L’Italien announced Wednesday that he was deeply troubled with recent revelations that the Premier’s Office was linked to the property tax scandal.


Recent revelations uncovered by CBC showed that the Premier’s Office had pushed to fast-track a new automated assessment process which caused over 2000 homeowners to be overcharged on their property taxes for renovations that hadn’t been done. The current government ignored warnings from Service New Brunswick staff that the new automated assessment system would take 2-3 years to properly test and implement in the province.


L’Italien called for a broader review of the system outside the assessment processes announced by the Premier. “We applaud the government for launching a review into the matter, but Justice Robertson should be given a broader mandate and undertake a full-scale review of the property tax system. It’s time we had a more open taxation process that prevents the perception that large companies and corporations have had their assessments reduced and home owners have risen. We need a system that’s fair and transparent for all.


“New Brunswickers know their taxes pay for crucial services and are willing to pay their fair and honest share. When that does not happen, that is an issue of trust.


“It’s time for a full scale review and overhaul of the property tax system.”

NDP Statement on Banning Corporate and Union Donations

“The NDP’s position has long been that corporate and union donations should be banned from politics so we applaud this move by the Liberals to copy another part of our policy,” said NB NDP Interim Leader Rosaire L’Italien. “However, even after cutting it in half, the personal contributions limit is still unusually high at $3000 a year, still one of the highest in Canada, and double what is allowed for federal political parties. This allows wealthy individuals to disproportionately influence the system. The NDP advocates that this should be lowered to $1000.”

However Mr. L’Italien was critical of the way that the government went about it.

“The timeline for doing this is very arbitrary and self-serving and the roll out was not consultative. It’s deeply cynical of the Liberals to ban corporate and union donations the day after a big fundraiser with all of their big money friends.” Said Mr L’Italien, referring to the Liberal Party’s annual $500-a-plate fundraiser which is scheduled for May 31st, the day before the changes come into effect.

« La position du NPD a longtemps été que les dons offerts aux partis politiques de la part des entreprises et des syndicats devraient être interdits. Alors nous applaudissons ce geste des libéraux de copier une autre partie de notre plateforme » a déclaré le chef intérimaire du NPD, Rosaire L’Italien.

« Cependant, même après avoir diminué de moitié la limite des contributions personnelles, cette limite est encore exceptionnellement élevée puisqu’elle se monte à 3000 $ par année. Cette limite est toujours l’une des plus élevées au Canada et le double de ce qui est autorisé pour les partis politiques fédéraux. Cela permet aux individus riches d’influencer de manière disproportionnée le système. Le NPD préconise que la limite soit abaissée à 1000 $. »

De plus, M. L’Italien a critiqué la façon dont le gouvernement va mettre cette mesure en place.

« Le calendrier pour appliquer ces changements est très arbitraire et à l’avantage des libéraux. De surcroit, les autres partis n’ont pas été consultés quant au déploiement de ces changements. Il est profondément cynique de la part des libéraux d’interdire les dons des entreprises et des syndicats le lendemain d’une grande collecte de fonds avec tous leurs gros donateurs » a déclaré M. L’Italien en se référant à la collecte de fonds annuelle de 500$ par assiette du Parti libéral prévue pour le 31 mai, le jour précédant l’entrée en vigueur de ces changements.


Who We Are 

Commentary by NB NDP Interim Leader Rosaire L’Italien in The Daily Gleaner

The New Democratic Party of New Brunswick believes that we can build a more just and more equal future for all New Brunswickers.   

We are students and young people. We are seniors and retirees. We are business owners and workers.  We participate in the economic life of New Brunswick.  We are foresters, manufactures, we are servers and we are civil servants. We are Francophones, First Nations and Anglophones.  We are the newcomers that have made New Brunswick their home.   

The New Democratic Party of New Brunswick is an inclusive party that welcomes all members of our community that strive to make New Brunswick better. We, like you, have a desire to make New Brunswick the fairest, greenest, wealthiest province where citizens can have social and economic equality.  We stand on the basic tenet that we New Brunswickers have unlimited potential to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves in our personal and social life.  We believe every person has the desire to contribute to our community.  We believe that New Brunswick’s greatest assets are the people that call our province home. 

The New Democratic Party of New Brunswick believes that freedom of choice and human dignity are basic fundamental rights that all people should not only strive for, but have. We believe that everyone should have the freedom to make choices in where one wants to live in Canada and New Brunswick that must not be hampered by social and economic barriers that prevent the full potential of the individual no matter their station in life.    

The New Democratic Party of New Brunswick will insist on the equality of opportunity and the equality of rights in pay equity, education and in the democratic life of our community.  We believe that everyone has the right to earn a living wage.   

The New Democratic Party of New Brunswick is not only committed to standing in solidarity with all workers of New Brunswick, but also being the voice for those who want to participate in the workforce to help New Brunswick reach its full economic potential.   

We believe that those members of our community that by no fault of their own that face social and economic barriers should be encouraged and assisted in achieving full equality.  All New Brunswickers should have access to affordable housing, food security, and social mobility that is supported by a living wage. 

We believe that government must be open, honest and accountable in its relationship with the citizens of New Brunswick.  We believe like you do that secret deals are bad deals in that they compromise the trust that government is given by the citizens of New Brunswick.   

We believe that corporate handouts to private companies are not good for New Brunswick.   

The New Brunswick New Democratic Party believes that fair and progressive taxation is vital to ensuring that all New Brunswicker’s contribute fairly.  Tax breaks and secret deals for the wealthy and large corporations are not only unfair, but undermine the New Brunswick economy.    

For the New Brunswick New Democratic Party,  you,  the people of New Brunswick will always come first.