[HALIFAX, NS] – Mayor Peter Kelly says the province is sending the wrong message by extending a tax break to a multibillion-dollar oil company.
Kelly says Imperial Oil and its parent company, ExxonMobil, can afford to pay their full share of municipal commercial taxes for its Dartmouth refinery.
"It is somewhat problematic as to why there's preferential treatment given to one sector over another," Kelly says.
The provincial government revealed on Wednesday it will continue a five-year tax break for the refinery. Under the agreement, Imperial Oil will pay $41 per barrel – resulting in a $3.6-million bill to HRM annually, with two $225,000 direct payments in April 2012 and 2014.
Based on the municipal assessment, the refinery should be paying $7.1 million a year. That means the provincial decision will result in $17.5 million less coming into municipal coffers over the five-year life of the deal.
Kelly says there's also the issue of the municipality controlling its own tax regime.
Premier Darrell Dexter defended the deal on Thursday, saying the province can't afford to lose its last refinery.
"It's a refinery that's under a great deal of stress in terms of its continued operation," Dexter told reporters. "We used to have three refineries in this province. Now we have one. I don't think anybody would want to see us lose our last refinery."
Dexter says losing the refinery could lead to a higher cost at the pumps for Nova Scotians. The premier could provide no evidence of this, but says he was basing his position on comments made by industry analysts in the press.
"Without that refinery, it's very likely that (people) would pay higher prices (for gas)," Dexter said.