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Restore Rebates

Thursday, March 01, 2022
Source :  Halifax Chronicle Herald

Restore rebates

FORMER FIDDLER Rodney MacDonald has changed his tune on dropping Ottawa’s tourism tax rebate program. Here’s hoping federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will rewrite his budget score.

The Harper Tories axed the $78.8-million program last fall, arguing few tourists bother to apply for refunds on taxes paid while in Canada. While the tourist industry cried foul over what it termed another blow to its bottom line, Premier MacDonald downplayed the potential damage. "I don’t think that visitors make their decisions based on that rebate," he said, days after Ottawa announced plans to table legislation to scrap the rebate by April 1.

A former minister of tourism, Mr. MacDonald should have known better. His remarks could be interpreted as an endorsement of a measure that the industry saw as a threat to its livelihood. It didn’t take federal Conservatives long to count the Nova Scotia premier among those favouring the rebate’s removal, using his words to defend their decision to end the program.

But Mr. MacDonald has since joined industry leaders and politicians trying to revive the doomed tax break. Tourism Minister Len Goucher has now formally requested that the federal Tories retain the program, and the premier told the CBC that removing the rebates would hurt tour operators in Nova Scotia. Liberal critic Scott Brison has pressed Mr. Flaherty on the issue twice in the Commons recently, with the minister saying earlier this week he’s hearing concerns raised over the effect of the program’s withdrawal on conventions.

If Mr. MacDonald can see the error of his ways, surely Mr. Flaherty can summon the courage to admit his rookie government’s mistake. Damage has already been inflicted upon the industry by the plans to axe the rebates. But a clear signal from the minister that he intends to maintain them can only help revive tourism this season, and in years to come.

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