Sean Kirby on the mining sector’s fuel tax rebate fight

Sean Kirby on the mining sector’s fuel tax rebate fight

A lobby group’s point man remembers the long road to reversing a dreaded government policy

THE PROVINCIAL FUEL TAX is supposed to help pay for public roads and highways by charging the vehicle owners who use them. The Government of Nova Scotia gave other resource industries a tax rebate for fuel used in vehicles that do not go on public roads, such as fishing boats, farm tractors and forestry harvesters. But it had excluded the mining and quarrying industry from the rebate since the 1980s, even though most of our industry’s vehicles also do not use public roads.

Not getting the rebate was a major issue for the industry for two main reasons. First, it was an additional cost Nova Scotia producers had to pay even though there was no policy justification for charging us fuel tax. Second, it hurt the province’s reputation in the global mining industry because other Canadian jurisdictions offer some form of fuel tax rebate to their mining industries. Excluding mining from the rebate used to send an unfortunate signal that the province was not open for business.

The Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS) and the industry asked for over three decades for this policy change. But we ramped up our efforts significantly in 2012. As MANS’ staff, it was our role to take the lead in explaining the issue and why it mattered. We had to be persistent and keep the issue on the government’s radar until it got resolved. But we never doubted the issue would get resolved.

The promise to add us to the rebate came during the 2013 provincial election. But the big announcement came at our 2017 annual general meeting when Premier Stephen McNeil came to tell us in person that we would be getting the rebate in the upcoming budget. After so many years of being excluded from the fuel tax rebate, it was very meaningful to us that the Premier took the time to deliver the news in person. It was obviously great in terms of the rebate specifically, but his attendance also demonstrated the government’s strong support of the industry in general.

By making mining eligible for the rebate, our producers are now saving 15.5 cents per litre of fuel consumed on mine, quarry and pit sites. And adding us to the rebate sends a strong signal to the global mining industry that the government wants the investment and job creation that the mining industry can generate.

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