Nova Scotia First Nation wants to get into tax collection business


A small Nova Scotia First Nation is poised to start collecting property taxes in April from non-Indigenous businesses located on land it purchased for commercial development in the Annapolis Valley.

Chief Sidney Peters of the Glooscap First Nation says it's about self-reliance.

"It's just another way of trying to bring in a few extra dollars of revenue to help the community out," Peters said.

The 400-member band currently pays a little over $20,000 a year in property taxes to the Municipality of the County of Kings for Glooscap Landing, which is home to a gas station and Tim Hortons on 11 hectares it owns on Highway 101 near Hantsport.

Passed motion last month

To get its hands on that money, Glooscap band council passed a motion last month to create its own taxing authority under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act.

The band says initially it is likely to charge the same tax rate as the neighbouring municipality.

Peters said the "biggest thing" is to have the money come back to the band.

The band is also pressing the federal government to designate the 11 hectares part of its reserve, the other key step that will enable it to exercise taxing authority.

Peters said he expects to have the reserve addition in time for April.

This will not impact federal or provincial taxes. Band members won't be charged property taxes because they are exempt.

Millbrook pioneered band tax collection in N.S.

Glooscap is not the first to go down this road in Nova Scotia.

The Millbrook band pioneered property tax collection under late Chief Lawrence Paul.

It has been levying property taxes at its Power Centre outside Truro for years.

According to financial records, taxation generated $711,000 in revenue for Millbrook in 2019.

Eskasoni, in Cape Breton, also collects property tax, according to data from the First Nations Tax Commission that helps bands across Canada set up tax regimes.

Paqtnkek, near Antigonish, is also looking at creating its own property tax regime.

Taxing across Canada

The First Nations Tax Commission says 152 First Nations collected $96 million in property tax across the country in 2020.

About $1.25 million was collected by bands in Atlantic Canada.

"Communities are looking for more ways to become more independent of government and to exercise their own self-governance through their own institutions. And taxation is a fundamental governmental power," said Manny Jules, chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission.

About 80 per cent of First Nation tax regimes in place across Canada are under the authority of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, which came into force in 2006. The remainder are under the Indian Act.

'Legislation is working'

In addition to strengthening First Nations' property taxing power, it also created the First Nations Financial Authority, a non-profit corporation used by bands to raise money.

It bankrolled the blockbuster $250-million loan to the Membertou band to pay for its share of the purchase of Clearwater Seafoods.

"It tells you very clearly that the legislation is working," said Jules. "It's the most successful legislation for First Nations in Canadian history. We were working, quite frankly, with over 50 per cent of the communities right across the country."