George Murphy Question Period (12.11.2012)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s East.

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Municipalities in the Province are currently doing their budgets, the latest being the City of St. John’s, who yesterday had to lower mill rates, but at the same time still go after taxpayers to cover their additional costs. The minister is on record all last session saying that his department was working towards a new funding formula, but still has not delivered on that promise.

As predicted, taxpayers are now getting the bill to meet the municipal need.

Will the minister please tell the taxpayers, especially of the City of St. John’s, why they should have to carry the load rather than the Province meeting the commitment financially with the new funding arrangement?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O’BRIEN: The first thing I would like to say to the hon. member, Mr. Speaker, is that there is only one taxpayer in this Province and that is the taxpayers of the Province. When you tax, whatever level of government it is, it comes from the same pocket, I say to the hon. member.

In the meantime, we have had some productive meetings with MNL to date, and both parties agree and certainly understand that a formula has to be equitable, it has to sustainable, and it has to be transparent. We are working towards that and we are working with municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador. If you would engage with municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador, you would fine that out, I say to the hon. member.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s East.

MR. MURPHY: The minister knows darn well that we have been consulting with municipalities and he knows as well that we have suggested a portion of the provincial gas tax to that end.

Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to helping municipalities with their budgetary requirements –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MURPHY: – but have not delivered on those commitments yet.

The City of St. John’s delivered their budget yesterday and rolled back mill rates to absorb the shock of rising municipal taxes.

A question for the minister: If everyone in St. John’s has to pay their taxes, why doesn’t government pay their fair share of taxes on properties and services that it takes from the city?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O’BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, over the last number of years we have invested heavily with regard to municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

MR. O’BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, there is a member drifting on the other side again, but anyway, I will go on with my answer.

We have been investing in municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador heavily since 2008 – as a matter of fact, $280 million over the last couple of years, Mr. Speaker. A fair bit of that is in the municipality, the City of St. John’s.

Yes, I understand quite well in regards to the challenges that the City may have, but there is, again, only one taxpayer in this Province, and whoever taxes them goes straight to their pockets, I say to the hon. member.

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