PLEASANT VALLEY - The manager of a local cement plant says it's time for the government to treat the mining industry in Nova Scotia equally with other provinces.
Scarth MacDonnell, plant manager of the Brookfield Cement Plant, which is a division of Lafarge Canada Inc., is pleased the Fuel Tax Fairness campaign has kicked off throughout Nova Scotia. The issue revolves around the fact the provincial fuel tax helps pay for public roads by charging vehicle owners who use them. Some natural resource industries receive a tax rebate for fuel used in vehicles that do not travel on public roads, such as fishing boats, farm tractors and off-highway forestry vehicles.
However, the mining industry doesn't receive the rebate in Nova Scotia and industry representatives, such as MacDonnell, want that changed.
"It's frustrating because the debate has been going on for 10 years," said MacDonnell on Tuesday from the Pleasant Valley-based plant.
"I know there are so many (government) budget challenges but our prices are going up ... our energy - electricity and fuel - are the biggest cost. There are 12 Nova Scotia plants and we have the highest fuel taxes."
MacDonnell said the plant's total energy bill in a year is more than $8 million. While he described the industry as "stable," and the Brookfield plant as "still profitable," he's "very concerned about anything that would erode that."
He's hopeful the provincial campaign, which includes representatives from the Mining Association of Nova Scotia touring industry plants and talking to the media, public and MLAs, will make a difference.
"The campaign has been successful in getting communication going. I'm hoping there will be some signal of optimism in February or March when the provincial budget comes," said MacDonnell. "If it's unsuccessful, we'll keep the dialogue going. We want some recognition that we're important so Nova Scotia has a level playing field. There are glaring inconsistencies and we need to keep pushing until something happens."
Sean Kirby, executive director of Mining Association of Nova Scotia, said the fact Nova Scotia is the only province that doesn't receive the rebate in the industry is unfair for a few reasons.
"The industry's vehicles don't go on public roads so we shouldn't be charged for using the public roads," said Kirby. "We are not licensed or even fit on those roads so it's unfair to tax us on it. They are taking millions of dollars away that could be spent on the industry, like the creation of jobs."
Nova Scotia's mining and quarry industry provides 6,300 jobs and contributes $500 million to the province's economy annually.
Did you know?
- The Brookfield Cement Plant was constructed in 1964 and currently employees 75 people.
- The plant, which runs 24 hours a day and seven days a week, uses Portland cement and ships its product to businesses throughout the Maritime provinces.
- The plant is on 700 acres (300 hectares) of land and is the only manufacturing home-grown source of cement in the Maritimes.
- Some of its major customers include Casey Concrete, Casey Metro, Quality Concrete, Shaw Group and the Osco Group.
- The cement used to make the Confederation Bridge to P.E.I. came from the Brookfield plant.