‘Everybody thinks it’s a magic bullet but it doesn’t do anything,’ economist says
It’s been a regular feature of Conservative federal budgets since 2006: an extension, for another year, of the 15 per cent Mineral Exploration Tax Credit.
The Conservative Party is now promising to extend that credit for another three years, if it’s re-elected, and boost the credit to 25 per cent in remote areas, including the territories and large parts of the provincial North.
There’s just one problem, says Lindsay Tedds, an economist with the University of Victoria: it may not actually work.
“Everybody thinks it’s a magic bullet but it doesn’t do anything,” Tedds says. “It does not increase investment to the point where you’re going to have increased exploration.”
Statistics would seem to bear that out. Total mineral exploration spending in Canada has dropped every year since 2011. And according to figures released this week by Statistics Canada, exploration spending was down nearly 20 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, and another 33 per cent in the second quarter.
Tedds says one of the problems is that the tax credit applies only to flow-through shares, which basically allow money-losing junior mining companies to pass on the tax credits they earn for exploration, to investors looking to cut their own tax bills.
“That’s a very, very niche area that they [the Conservatives] are targeting,” she says. “These investors in flow-through shares are predominantly doing this for tax planning reasons, not for investment purposes.”
Credit has industry fans
But the credit has fans in the mining industry. The Conservatives’ promised extension of the tax credit is exactly what was recommended in a May report co-signed by the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, and other industry groups.
Samson Hartland, the Yukon chamber’s executive director, says he’s glad to see the proposal included in the Tory platform (though he stresses the chamber supports mining-friendly policies from every party).
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