Council approves Irving tax deal, grumbling all the while

Opinions abound on special tax rate for shipyard.

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You better spit out some ships soon, you giant frig.
  • You better spit out some ships soon, you giant frig.

Yesterday, city council approved a hotly-debated property tax deal with Irving Shipbuilding. It did not pass without criticism.

The Irving shipyard had previously been paying $1.6 million a year on their waterfront facility. The new 25-year agreement (with a possible 10 year extension) drops Irving’s payment down to $563,000 with an annual one percent increase.

The good news is Irving gets a stable tax rate to plan future business around, and the city still ends up with millions in tax revenue. On the other hand, the Irving shipyard is somehow now worth less than it was before the hundreds of millions of dollars in public money were pumped into it for upgrades.

That’s a negative view, some might say, considering the hundreds of potential workers lining up for a job yesterday at the Dartmouth Holiday Inn. And more workers will equal more money to the municipality. Once the shipyard’s workforce surpasses 1,000, an additional $1,000 will be paid out by Irving for each full-time employee working (capped at $2 million a year).

Don’t go spending that extra money just yet, Halifax. As noted yesterday by councillor Stephan Adams, Irving has claimed that peak employment for the arctic patrol vessel contract will top out at 1,000 jobs. Between part-time employment, strategic layoffs or just employing people anywhere but the shipyard, Irving has plenty of ways to stay below the 1,000 full-time equivalent threshold and save itself some money.

“We made the agreement on employment numbers and we don’t know those numbers,” councillor Matt Whitman exclaimed yesterday. “We as Nova Scotians don’t even know what we’re in for.”

Whitman made sure to mention a downtown law firm who he claims pays the same taxes for three floors of office space as Irving will now pay for their entire shipyard.

The tax deal eventually passed, 11 to five. Fingers remain crossed that ships will soon start to start here.

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