GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, N.L. — As the dust settles from the federal election, a Northern Residents Tax Deduction remains a pressing issue for municipalities on the Great Northern Peninsula (GNP).
Ever since residents of the GNP were first excluded from the Northern Residents Tax Deduction in 1991, local governments have been fighting to get it back.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the entire region of Labrador is included in the Northern Zone.
But when the federal government amended northern tax deduction zones in 1991, no other parts of the province were included in either the northern or intermediate zone.
The Liberal Party of Canada recently indicated it would be willing to make changes to the policy, but there’s no mention of the GNP.
The Liberals included changes to the northern resident deduction in its 2019 election platform.
In their platform it was stated, “We will move forward with improvements to the Northern Resident Deduction, giving people living in the Northern Zone at least $1,200 in deductible travel costs, with $600 in deductible travel costs for people in the Intermediate Zone.”
A day after the Oct. 21 federal election, the Liberals referenced it again in their document of post-election tax changes.
While the party looked at making travel more affordable for northern residents, there was no mention of possibly rezoning the northern or intermediate zones to include parts of the island of Newfoundland.
It’s just another new benefit residents in Southern Labrador may see while those on the GNP, just across the Strait of Belle Isle, would not.
This comes in spite of the fact travel expenses are high on the GNP.
Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald says residents on the GNP often have to travel long distances for essential services.
“There’s lots of services you can’t get here, you got to travel for it and it costs a fortune to get off the peninsula,” she told The Northern Pen.
The Liberal platform references how “the high cost of airfare can make it unaffordable for many.”
According to Fitzgerald, that is definitely a problem on the GNP.
She says residents on the GNP can’t fly because the cost of flights out of St. Anthony Airport are so expensive, they are "just ludicrous."
A flight from St. Anthony to St. John’s, for example, can cost anywhere between $700 to $1,200.
She specifically worries about the costs incurred by people who have to travel for medical reasons.
“If they’re going to go for a medical procedure, you can’t go by yourself, so imagine having to send two people by flights,” she said. “And still for all, this is all at their own cost.”
Other issues include the price of gas, which is more expensive on the GNP than other parts of the island, and the distance between the tip of the GNP and the other major centres of the province.
Fitzgerald stresses how the principle of fairness is not being applied in this situation.
“Why is it you can give it to one but can’t give it to another?” she asked. “Why is it that the RCMP, they get recognized as being in a remote posting in the province but no one else gets the same thing? All we’re asking for is fairness.”
She points out that much of the GNP is also further north than many communities not only in the Intermediate Zone but also in the Northern Zone.
While her party hasn’t been making any alterations to the northern tax deduction for her district, Long Range Mountains MP Gudie Hutchings supports changes.
Prior to the election, she told SaltWire Network she has made numerous attempts to have the northern tax deduction reinstated for residents of the Northern Peninsula.
Hutchings said she had met with Finance Minister Bill Morneau on the issue on multiple occasions but has not succeeded in getting it changed.
The Northern Pen contacted Hutchings’ office for an interview, but the MP was on vacation and unavailable.
Per the Government of Canada, if you live in a prescribed northern zone (Zone A), you can claim:
A basic residency amount of $11 for each day that you lived in this zone; plus an additional residency amount of $11 for each day you lived in this zone if you maintained a dwelling and you are the only person claiming the basic residency amount for that period and dwelling.
If you live in a prescribed intermediate zone (Zone B), you can claim:
A basic residency amount of $5.50 for each day that you lived in this zone; plus an additional residency amount of $5.50 for each day you lived in this zone if you maintained a dwelling and you are the only person claiming the basic residency amount for that period and dwelling.