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Newfoundland government may axe seldom-used business program in 2019

Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune MHA Tracey Perry speaks to reports Tuesday outside the House of Assembly.
Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune MHA Tracey Perry speaks to reports Tuesday outside the House of Assembly. - David Maher

One of the government’s business incentive programs isn’t seeing much activity, could be up for review next year

A business development program aimed at helping medium-sized businesses set up shop in the province could be on the chopping black heading into the 2019-20 provincial budget.

Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune MHA Tracey Perry raised concerns over the Economic Diversity and Growth Enterprises (EDGE) program in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, stating the program had not seen any applicants in the last year.

Upon review of the numbers, applications to the program over the last number of years has been wanting.

Between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 annual reports, no businesses were recommended to cabinet to take advantage of the program.

Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Chris Mitchelmore didn’t give a ringing endorsement of the program when pressed by reporters on Tuesday.

“When you look at the EDGE program itself, there are significant costs on the treasury on the initial stage, but it’s meant to be a long-term investment,” he said.

“If we can attract companies to come to Newfoundland and Labrador without having to provide 10 or 15 years where the provincial government is on the hook for paying their provincial or federal taxation … then that would certainly be my preference.”

Mitchelmore pointed to other business incentive programs the government has in place to encourage businesses to settle in the province.

He says he’s willing to review the program.

Perry says it’s a good program and she doesn’t want to see it cut altogether.

“I would have a lot of questions for the minister about that,” she said.

“It was a great incentive program for trying to attract investors to Newfoundland and Labrador – particularly rural. There’s not a lot of incentive programs out there. That one was very beneficial.”

The program was introduced in 1994 and has seen dozens of businesses take advantage of it, but the drop-off is noticeable in recent years.

Under the program, if a company settles in the Northeast Avalon, it’s offered a 10-year tax break on provincial and payroll tax. If the company moves off the Northeast Avalon, the tax break extends for 15 years. There are additional 50 per cent rebates on federal tax and total rebates on municipal taxation for the 10- or 15-year period.

The program also offers the potential to purchase Crown land in the province for $1.

David.Maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL

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