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Premier Blaine Higgs addresses businesses leaders from Greater Moncton on June 3, 2024. Image: Brad Perry

Premier defends keeping sales tax on new multi-unit buildings

By Brad Perry Jun 4, 2024 | 5:28 AM

New Brunswick’s premier has no plans to eliminate the provincial sales tax on new multi-unit buildings in an effort to spur development.

Blaine Higgs maintained his position on Monday while addressing dozens of business leaders from across the Greater Moncton region.

“Every time I decide to give your tax dollars to somebody else, somebody is going to end up paying for that because that’s where it comes from,” the premier told us following his address.

Higgs said there is no evidence the move, which would lead to a revenue reduction of around $170 million each year, would actually lead to more rental units.

The premier also noted there were no commitments that the province has enough skilled labourers to ramp up development even more.

Meanwhile, Higgs also defended his government’s decision to drop the rent cap as of the end of 2022.

It comes as Statistics Canada said average rents in the province soared by 10.8 per cent between April 2023 and April 2024, one of the highest increases in the country.

“While people pretend rent caps will solve everything, we don’t see that. We think that is not the business approach that we want to have for our free marketplace, and currently, New Brunswick still has one of the lowest average rents in the country,” said Higgs.

The premier said new construction and the uptick in apartment building sales were the main reasons behind the year-over-year rental increases.

Higgs believes rent increases “will subside” as more rental units continue to come online, which will help to increase the vacancy rate.

The premier added that his government remains focused on building more affordable housing, which he admitted is a challenge.