First Nation Chief Fires Back At Premier Higgs For Claims That Tax Arrangement Created A Filthy Rich Reserve

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First Nation Chief Ross Perley, whose reserve has only witnessed a small part of the overall tax sharing revenue, notes that he does not think the system has been unfair to the community.

Chief Perley said that Premier Blain Higgs should be happy with his community’s industriousness rather than attacking tax-sharing deals for their unfairness to some of the reserves.

He said that the premier and aboriginal affairs minister ought to be happy with the progress the first Nation communities are making rather than repressing them.

On Wednesday, while on one of Fredericton’s morning shows, Higgs said that the tax deal isn’t working for some first nations because Maliseet Madawaska First Nation got 40 percent of total revenue last year.

He said this while responding to a question by a listener who wanted to know why the government hasn’t raised taxes on wealthy individuals in New Brunswick, such as the Irvings.

Based on recent figures provided by the Department of Finance, Tobique first nation posted the lowest revenue in 2020 of the 13 that runs a revenue-sharing deal, which brings it to just $230000.

However, Perley noted that he is not uncomfortable with his community’s success. Neither does he take the premier’s explanation as a reason to terminate the arrangement.

Maliset Madawaska’s runaway success is fueled by their Grey rock Retail Complex based along the Trans-Canada highway close to the exit that leads to Edmundston.

The business brought the community $18m worth of revenue under the tax deal in 2020, which is one-100th of the $1.9bn that Forbes estimates the Irvings are worth.

The province’s minister for aboriginal affairs, Arlene Dunn, distanced herself from the comments the premier made regarding the tax deal.

She noted that she does not feel the same way about the $18m that the first nation accrued last year.

On Tuesday, Higgs and Dunn stood on the same podium. This is when they informed the other 13 bands that they would be canceling their tax deals.

Some of the deals will terminate in 2022, and the rest in the next 90 days.

However, Dunn said that she regrets how the chief from the affected community got wind of the impending termination. She presented the information at a conference call with finance minister Ernie Steeves. She read a statement that had been prepared beforehand.

The tax arrangements allowed retailers operating in the first nations to retain 95 percent of overall tax revenue. Recently, new provisions were included when the deal was renewed in 2017 that caps it at $8m. The first nations keep anything above that.

Higgs notes that other than being unfair to other first nations, the deal is equally unfair to non-indigenous service providers and businesses operating close to the reserves.

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