Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty.
The Council of Canadians Regina chapter is calling on the Saskatchewan provincial government to reject austerity measures in the budget it will table on Wednesday March 22.
The Regina Leader-Post reports, “With consecutive years of lower-than-expected revenue from natural resources [from oil, gas and potash], [Finance Minister Kevin] Doherty will be presenting a plan — they’re calling it ‘Meeting the Challenge’ — to eliminate Saskatchewan’s roughly $1.3-billion deficit and bring the books back to balance over the next three years. That plan will likely mean residents of the province paying more in taxes.”
The article adds, “It was less than a year ago when the province proposed its ‘transformational change’ agenda. Much of the work resulting from that process is expected to be reflected in Wednesday’s budget documents. Part of that plan includes a 3.5-per-cent reduction in public sector costs. The government is also restructuring the way it delivers social services and considering merging duplication of post-secondary programming; but it is unclear if the budget will reach any conclusions on those fronts or not. In a little over one year’s time, Saskatchewan’s deficit has gone from $246 million to $1.3 billion.”
BNN notes, “The government also is looking at the education portion of property taxes, provincial sales tax exemptions and the PST in general.” And CBC notes, “[Premier Brad Wall] also says there will be a shift toward consumption taxes and away from taxes on ‘productivity and income’. It could mean tax exemptions for farmers, prescriptions, lightly used vehicles, children’s clothes and other items will be disappearing.”
Chapter activist Jim Elliott says, “We need to resist the current knee jerk reactions associated with the austerity movement of privatization and cutting social services as suggested by Premier Wall. Wall’s suggestions will cost taxpayers more money and years of time to rebuild the ecological and social fabric of this province.”
He adds, “We call upon the Saskatchewan Party government to protect the environment, attack climate change head on, provide adequate housing and social infrastructure while not compromising our future. We are at a crossroads and could be building a sustainable, green future or we could take five steps back.”
Elliott concludes, “The budget need not be balanced this year or in the near future. Investment in low income families, energy conservation and transition and other public infrastructure will build resilience and sustainability, something this province is in dire need of today.”
The Saskatchewan NDP has highlighted that a flat tax that have a bigger impact on lower-income families. The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation is concerned the budget will mean cuts within classrooms. The CBC reports, “Teachers are asking any cuts to education be directed at head offices rather than class sizes.” And the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union has already filed a legal challenge against the government with the Labour Relations Board arguing the provincial government acted in bad faith by proposing public sector wage rollbacks.