POLITICS

No plan for higher recycling fee on glass bottles, Nova Scotia minister says

08/01/2013 02:13 EDT | Updated 10/01/2013 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - With a long weekend approaching and a provincial election drawing closer, Nova Scotia's NDP government scrambled to deny a report Thursday suggesting it was poised to impose new recycling fees that would, among other things, increase the cost of bottled beer.

Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau issued no less than eight categorical denials after the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released an internal government document that says up to $1.20 in new fees could be added to the cost of a 12-pack of beer.

"We have no intention of raising those fees now or in the future," Belliveau said Thursday after a cabinet meeting.

"Nova Scotians can rest assured that, regardless of what beverage you want to drink in the remaining part of this summer, there will be no fee increase."

The taxpayers group said it received a government discussion paper from an anonymous source saying the Environment Department is proposing additional fees that would see the glass deposit rise from 10 cents per bottle to 20 cents.

Belliveau said he hadn't seen the discussion paper but he later confirmed that it was written by staff in his department.

A government spokeswoman said the document was prepared earlier this year and was distributed to organizations and businesses with an interest in the bottle recycling program, including breweries.

"This was a discussion paper with hypothetical situations for feedback and meant to generate ideas," Jennifer Stewart said in an email.

"This is commonly done in government on a wide variety of issues. ... This was at the staff level — the minister would only have been informed when staff were ready to present policy options to him to consider for presentation to cabinet."

NDP staff also turned to Twitter to defuse the issue, at one point accusing the federation of circulating "false rumours."

Kevin Lacey, the federation's Atlantic director, also turned to social media, insisting that his group never said the government had made a decision.

"We were demanding (the government) tell Nova Scotians where they stood before election," he said on Twitter.

Despite the government's attempts to quash the issue, the Progressive Conservatives issued a statement raising questions about Belliveau's assertion that he didn't know about the document.

“As minister, the buck stops with him," Tory house leader Chris d'Entremont said in a statement.

"To claim to be unaware is not acceptable. He must state clearly to Nova Scotians whether or not another NDP tax increase is coming. This is the latest example of an NDP tax grab, reaching further in Nova Scotians' pockets."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the Canadian Taxpayers Federation obtained the discussion paper through access-to-information.