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Fighting for northern tax break

Members of the Northern Peninsula Joint Council sit around the table at the most recent meeting in Anchor Point on Saturday, Feb. 18. They include, clockwise from front, Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald, mayor of Englee Rudy Porter, deputy mayor of Englee Ron Twyne, St. Anthony Mayor Ernest Simms, chair and mayor of Anchor Point Gerry Gros, St. Lunaire-Griquet Mayor Dale Colbourne, mayor of Bird Cove Andre Myers and Flower’s Cove Mayor Keith Billard.
Members of the Northern Peninsula Joint Council sit around the table at the most recent meeting in Anchor Point on Saturday, Feb. 18. They include, clockwise from front, Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald, mayor of Englee Rudy Porter, deputy mayor of Englee Ron Twyne, St. Anthony Mayor Ernest Simms, chair and mayor of Anchor Point Gerry Gros, St. Lunaire-Griquet Mayor Dale Colbourne, mayor of Bird Cove Andre Myers and Flower’s Cove Mayor Keith Billard.

It has been 26 years since the people on the Northern Peninsula — from Cow Head to St. Anthony — lost their ability to claim a tax deduction for living in the north.

Now, the joint council of the Northern Peninsula is actively fighting to get it back.

During the council’s first meeting in many months on Saturday, Feb. 18, all members agreed to participate in a petition process to lobby the federal government to allow the residents of the region to qualify.

The Canadian Revenue Agency website says to qualify for the benefit, one must live in one of the two prescribed zones: northern zone or intermediate zone.

Currently, all of Labrador qualifies for the northern zone. But there are no other places in the province that are eligible.

Gerry Gros is mayor of Anchor Point and chairs the joint council. He  says they are fighting for what they should be entitled to, something they lost.

“We were cut out without consultations, and no explanations,” he said.

Bird Cove Mayor Andre Myers said it's something that can’t be ignored any longer.

 “We’ve talked about it before, and it didn’t go anywhere,” he said.

This time it could be different because every council in attendance agreed to circulate a petition in their communities.

Within the next couple of weeks, the petitions will be sent to every town council, for distribution in the community to collect the signatures of residents.

Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald said she’d go as far as organizing a door-to-door for signatures.

The petitions will be presented to all seven of the province’s Members of Parliament to bring forward to the House of Commons.

Now, the joint council of the Northern Peninsula is actively fighting to get it back.

During the council’s first meeting in many months on Saturday, Feb. 18, all members agreed to participate in a petition process to lobby the federal government to allow the residents of the region to qualify.

The Canadian Revenue Agency website says to qualify for the benefit, one must live in one of the two prescribed zones: northern zone or intermediate zone.

Currently, all of Labrador qualifies for the northern zone. But there are no other places in the province that are eligible.

Gerry Gros is mayor of Anchor Point and chairs the joint council. He  says they are fighting for what they should be entitled to, something they lost.

“We were cut out without consultations, and no explanations,” he said.

Bird Cove Mayor Andre Myers said it's something that can’t be ignored any longer.

 “We’ve talked about it before, and it didn’t go anywhere,” he said.

This time it could be different because every council in attendance agreed to circulate a petition in their communities.

Within the next couple of weeks, the petitions will be sent to every town council, for distribution in the community to collect the signatures of residents.

Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald said she’d go as far as organizing a door-to-door for signatures.

The petitions will be presented to all seven of the province’s Members of Parliament to bring forward to the House of Commons.

The east side of St. Anthony Harbour.

What’s the criteria for 'Northern'?

There is no specified criteria on the Canadian Revenue Agencies website about how the locations are determined.

A list of the municipalities that are included in the two zones can be found at http://bit.ly/1HiXnic and clicking on the link for this province.

Some may question if the Northern Peninsula should be considered to qualify for the northern resident deduction.

Could it qualify by its northern location?

St. Anthony is just above the 51st parallel, which means it’s 51 degrees north of the equator.

In comparison, L’Anse au Loup, Labrador is close to the same distance north.

St. Anthony does not quality for the reduction, but L’Anse au Loup does.

Other towns that qualify include Moose River and Pickle Lake in Ontario, which are both farther south than the Northern Peninsula. Fatima and Desmarisville in Quebec are also farther south and qualify for the reduction.

If it’s not distance north, is it the isolation?

Fort McMurray, Alberta qualifies for the deduction. It’s farther north, along the 56th parallel, but has a population of over 61,000.

There are just over 2,200 people in St. Anthony, the most populous municipality on the Northern Peninsula. It’s located five hours north of Deer Lake; the next most populous town with a population of some 4,600 people.

So what determines if a location is isolated? Is it the difficulty getting there? Or is it the distance goods and services must travel to supply a location?

The Northern Peninsula has one small airport in St. Anthony, everything else is trucked in or comes by boat.

A delivery truck from Corner Brook could take up to six hours to get to St. Anthony. Most food products, including groceries, are trucked from Bay Roberts, 11 hours away.

As for getting there, the Northern Peninsula has unique terrain, including Gros Morne National Park, which is covered in hills and mountainous ranges. The roads are built over these natural structures.

The road on the rest of the peninsula follows the shoreline, with many twists and turns.

Regardless of the criteria, the joint council is looking to have that right to the reduction reinstated, and who attended last Saturday’s meeting hope residents will support the petition.

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