New Brunswick Auditor General Says Provincial Agriculture Department Not Fully Supervising Fairs
New Brunswick Auditor General Kim MacPherson released a report Wednesday on agricultural fair associations operating in the province. MacPherson found the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries does not supervise or control the thirteen agricultural fair associations in New Brunswick as prescribed under the Agricultural Associations Act.
MacPherson recommended the department fulfill its legislated mandate or alternatively pursue legislative amendments to the act. The department in its response indicated it would amend or repeal all or part of the act.
Since the thirteen entities are classified as agriculture fair associations or agricultural societies, McPherson says they can be exempted from property taxes and income taxes and may also benefit from charitable gaming privileges.
Those associations are:
1. Albert County Fair
2. Fredericton Exhibition Ltd.
3. Kent County Agricultural Fair
4. Kings County Agricultural Fair
5. Exposition régionale de Saint-Isidore
6. Miramichi Agricultural Exhibition Association
7. Napan Agricultural Show
8. Port Elgin Agricultural Fair
9. Queens County Fair
10. Saint John Exhibition
11. Stanley Fair
12. Westmorland County Fair
13. Woodstock Old Home Week Agricultural Exhibition
MacPherson concluded that there is limited initial assessment to determine if entities are eligible to receive exemptions and benefits. The report says there's also a lack of ongoing monitoring to ensure requirements continue to be met.
“We found that tax exemptions and other benefits received by agricultural fair associations can be significant. We made several recommendations to multiple departments in order to ensure these exemptions and benefits are given based on eligibility. I am pleased to see that responses received from the departments were favorable and I look forward to see the implementation of our recommendations.”
Recommendations to the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries:
- Fulfill its legislated mandate under the Agricultural Associations Act, or pursue legislative amendments
- Communicate, and monitor minimum reporting requirements for all agricultural associations and societies.
Recommendation to Service New Brunswick:
- Follow its internal standard and re-assess any agricultural fair association exceeding the 10-year assessment cycle along with evaluating the eligibility of these organizations for exemption from property tax.
Recommendation to the Department of Public Safety:
- Develop a standardized process and implement associated procedures for evaluating initial and ongoing eligibility of agricultural fair associations for licensing under the charitable gaming program.
Recommendation to the Department of Finance:
- Request Canada Revenue Agency undertake audits of agricultural fair associations currently exempted from provincial income tax to verify the eligibility status of these organizations
The Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries stated it believed the act and regulations in question are outdated.