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Nova Scotia property tax bill moves through public hearing process without changes

HALIFAX — Public hearings involving two new taxes targeting non-resident property owners in Nova Scotia concluded Tuesday without amendments to their accompanying legislation.
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Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc reads the speech from throne at Province House in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Two new taxes aimed at non-resident property owners in Nova Scotia have moved through the legislature’s public hearing process without amendments today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

HALIFAX — Public hearings involving two new taxes targeting non-resident property owners in Nova Scotia concluded Tuesday without amendments to their accompanying legislation.

The all-party law amendments committee forwarded legislation authorizing the taxes — imposed to increase the housing supply in the province — to the legislature for further consideration and a third and final reading.

The legislation passed the public hearing stage after the Progressive Conservative majority on the nine-member committee voted down a proposed NDP amendment that would have committed the tax revenue for use in affordable housing programs only. The government estimates it will take in $81 million from the new taxes in fiscal 2022-23.

“Since it (legislation) is being put forward as something to address the housing crisis … we are asking the government to actually be clear with that proposal,” NDP committee member Claudia Chender said Tuesday ahead of the vote. “This would accomplish what the government says it is setting out to accomplish.”

Finance Minister Allan MacMaster has said the tax measures are necessary to help Nova Scotians gain access to housing at a time when vacancy rates are extremely low. The taxes are designed to encourage non-resident property owners to sell their homes to locals and to discourage other non-residents from buying residential properties in the province. 

However, MacMaster has also admitted that it won’t be known if the taxes will help tackle the housing problem until they are implemented.

One of the new taxes included in the recent budget forces non-residents who buy property and do not move to the province within six months of the closing date to pay a transfer tax of five per cent of the property's value. The second tax requires non-resident owners to pay an annual fee of $2 per $100 of assessed value of their residential properties.

Forty-six presentations were made before the committee over two days of hearings that began last week, although the committee heard from 90 people who wanted to speak. Committee chairman Brad Johns, who is also the province’s justice minister, said those who didn’t get to make an oral presentation have been asked for written submissions.

A majority of the presenters called on the government to reconsider the taxes, calling them unfair and discriminatory against people who live outside the province.

The Finance Department has said there are about 27,000 properties in Nova Scotia that are owned by non-residents, more than half of whom come from Ontario.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2022.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

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