Open Letter to Saint John Common Council on Proposed Trucking Tax

Recently, the City of Saint John released its Sustainability Plan to the public at a meeting of Common Council. As part of that plan, City Hall is considering a new permitting fee for trucks travelling through the city. This fee- a North American first- would be detrimental to businesses and consumers in our region. Trucking is an essential part of our supply chain and we’re joining many members of the business community in asking Mayor and Council to reconsider. This letter, from Port CEO Jim Quinn, was sent on April 29, 2020: 

Dear Mayor and Council,

I would like to first congratulate your efforts and that of the City Manager and staff in bringing forward your sustainability plan that contains many progressive concepts that will assist our City and Region to return to the position as the strong foundation and prime enabler of ensuring a strong Provincial economy.

Having said this, there is one area that I would urge you to more fully consider, that being the proposed permitting fee to be assessed on trucks of 43,500 kg and above.

One of New Brunswick’s realities and indeed the region and the City of Saint John is that we are an export driven economy with an important growing import economy. We have railways, airports, and Ports that support this economic activity, but our geography and costing advantages make trucking an essential component in the movement of goods into and out of our economy. Trade and costs related to trade- especially trucking- create a delicate balance between many businesses’ success or failure. Additional cost- such as they proposed by the City- could in fact disrupt that balance and cause shippers and receivers to divert their cargo away from Saint John to competitor modes of transportation thereby resulting in unintended consequences for the City itself and indeed the surrounding region. These would include local job losses and increased costs for not only companies throughout the supply chair but also for consumers. To become known as what I understand would be the only city in North America to implement such a fee would have undesirable reputational consequences and I fear that the administration, staff and enforcement activities associated with fulfilling the concept may greatly reduce if not eliminate the $1 million objective.

The companies who will be impacted by your proposal already pay considerable property taxes and fuel taxes which should be seen as contributions in maintaining the few routes they utilize in the City of Saint John. Many of these companies have established their businesses in Saint John and employ thousands of people directly and indirectly and thousands of more indirectly.

I want to underscore my overall support for the financially sustainable direction you are aspiring to but felt obliged to voice my disagreement with this one aspect of your plan. As a former Chief Financial Officer in the Federal Government, I understand and appreciate the need for fiscal sustainability, but I also understand the temptation of choosing an item to drive a bottom line dollar amount without fully considering unintended consequences.

Respectfully,

Jim Quinn
President & CEO
Port Saint John