The Wolastoqey Nations of New Brunswick say they have achieved a small victory by getting the provincial government to change its tune on canceling the tax-sharing agreements between the two.
In April, the Higgs government called a press conference and announced that it would cancel tax-sharing agreements with First Nations communities in April 2022.
Madawaska First Nations chief Patricia Bernard told a news conference Friday that it was held without consulting First Nations communities.
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The current agreement allows First Nations to keep 95% of the gasoline and motor fuel tax, the provincial part of the harmonized sales tax (HST) and tobacco taxes collected in reserve for the first 8 million. dollars and 70% after that threshold. In 1994, the first year it was introduced, the deal was worth $ 28,000.
However, the government has backed down after the six communities moved to challenge the decision in Queen’s Bench Court, which was scheduled for October 15.
“The heads of the six Wolastoqey nations are frustrated with Prime Minister Blaine Higgs and his ministers for their repeated refusal to engage in meaningful discussions on revenue sharing agreements,” Bernard said.
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The agreements were signed for a period of 10 years, which means that they were in force until 2027.
“The actions of the Higgs government have jeopardized an important source of income that promotes economic development and job creation in First Nations and surrounding communities,” said Bernard.
The six communities said they are preparing to create their own tax regime.
“If these agreements are canceled, we will be asserting our own jurisdiction, we will be establishing tax regimes and they may not be in line with the provincial tax regimes currently,” he said.
He said they are willing to negotiate concessions that they believe may be necessary. Bernard said they are reasonable people.
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“Prime Minister Higgs is not very knowledgeable about the history of our rights in particular, but also about the law, the jurisdiction law, the federal-provincial division of responsibility, the fact that we could be located within the province of New Brunswick, but he has a lot of authority and rights to create these kinds of regimes and I don’t think he is well informed or well informed about what the consequences of his actions will be, “he told reporters.
Despite the tense relationship between the indigenous communities and the province, especially after the government refused to recognize the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation as a legal holiday, Bernard said he believes the relations can be repaired.
Higgs was not available for an interview on Friday, instead emailing a statement.
“There was a difference of opinion on the termination date of the tax agreements,” the statement said. “The Parties agreed that it would benefit from a court order confirming the certainty regarding the termination date. The process has resulted in a mutually agreed completion date of January 31, 2023. “
Higgs said the province is satisfied “that we have brought firmness and certainty to this matter.”
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