Economy

Finance minister says NWT won’t introduce sales tax


The NWT’s finance minister on Friday said she had no intention of introducing a sales tax, a day after her department declined to rule out such a move.

On Thursday, the Department of Finance said a sales tax would be discussed among MLAs in October after being raised “at a high level” during budget feedback meetings with residents in July and August.

However, 24 hours later, finance minister Caroline Wawzonek said her government “is not advancing any initiatives that would see the introduction of a territorial sales tax.”

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Wawzonek said a sales tax would hinder growth of the private-sector economy and increase residents’ cost of living.

“Members of the Legislative Assembly had asked me to consider ways in which the GNWT may generate own-source revenues. A variety of options, including taxation, were discussed during recent public dialogue on the upcoming GNWT budget,” Wawzonek said by email.

“While the idea of a sales tax was not deemed to be worth pursuing at this time, the GNWT will continue to examine its revenue and spending options to ensure that we are achieving value for money while continuing to deliver important programs and services to all residents of the Northwest Territories.”

Charging only five-percent GST, the NWT currently has the joint-lowest sales tax regime in Canada alongside Nunavut, Alberta, and the Yukon.

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On Thursday, a Department of Finance spokesperson gave little detail – and no direct answer – when Cabin Radio asked whether work was being done to examine a new sales tax, and whether any active steps toward its introduction were being taken.

In an emailed statement, the department said residents had “told us about their priorities and how they want the GNWT to allocate scarce funds and marshal resources from existing programs and services.”

Residents giving feedback about the forthcoming budget had “encouraged the GNWT to creatively examine potential new streams of revenue,” the department said.

“Some revenue options, including a sales tax, and expenditure options were discussed at a high level during these sessions.”

The spokesperson at the time said MLAs were due to hear more about those options during the next session of the legislature, from October 15 to November 5.

Premier Caroline Cochrane’s government has already taken other revenue-raising steps with little or no fanfare.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported the NWT government had for the first time issued bonds in the Canadian public debt market.

The bonds, worth $180 million, are reportedly due in September 2051.

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