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Regina chapter slams Wall government’s budget

Saskatchewan finance minister Kevin Doherty.

The Council of Canadians Regina chapter has slammed the budget tabled by the Saskatchewan government yesterday.

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall had promised the budget would be about ‘transformational change’, but the chapter says the budget didn’t include any of the real ‘transformational changes’ needed to address climate change, ensure that pharmaceutical drugs are accessible to seniors, stop ‘free trade’ deals, and protect water.

In a media release issued yesterday, Regina chapter activist Jim Elliott said, “We are very disappointed in the lack of action and vision presented in the Saskatchewan Party budget address. It lacks detail and fails to act on some important files this provincial government must deal with in the coming year. There was nothing on helping with the transition of unemployed fossil fuel industry workers into good paying renewable energy work needed now in this province.”

As the province suffers from a decline in oil and gas revenues, it failed to acknowledge that the average renewable energy investment creates four times as many jobs as the same investment in the fossil fuel economy.

Elliott also notes, “There is no effort put into reducing health care costs by purchasing pharmaceutical drugs through a national purchasing strategy. Source water protection doesn’t seem to be on their radar with pending impacts of droughts, trade deals and climate change. It pushes costs and further cuts onto sub-governmental agencies. The word ‘transformational change’ is being used as a cloak to hide all measure of privatizations, austerity and general budget cuts.”

The CBC reports, “Among the budget measures rolled out was the closure of a northern jail, cuts to spending on urban parks, the elimination of tax rebates for children’s sports programs, less money for prescription drug subsidies and a reduction in post-secondary capital spending.”

And the Star-Phoenix highlights that seniors are “losers” in this budget because, “The amount to be paid out-of-pocket per prescription is increasing by $5 (to a maximum of $25) under the Children’s and Seniors’ Drug Plan, to offset costs the government says have grown by an average of $10 million each year since 2012-13. The government estimates the change will affect 66,000 families with children by an average of $20 annually and 120,000 seniors by an average of $80 per year.” CTV reports this as, “Effective immediately, the cost of the Children and Seniors Drug Plan is rising by $5 a prescription to $25. The province says it should save $6.75 million this year and $9 million annually.”

Despite this situation, the Wall government remains supportive of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). It has been estimated that because of the extended patent protection that would be granted to transnational pharmaceutical corporations through CETA annual drug plan costs could increase by $72.3 million in Saskatchewan.

In terms of ignoring climate change and drought, last month the CBC reported, “Over the next 30 years, research from the Prairie Climate Centre shows the number of 30+ C days in an average summer is expected to almost double. By 2080, at current carbon emission rates, that number could quadruple. While the amount of rain and snowfall is expected to increase in the winter and spring, summers are expected to get much drier. That is expected to have consequences on everything from forest fires to agriculture.”

Saskatchewan has the highest per-capita emissions of any province, with the province responsible for 10.3 per cent of Canada’s emissions despite only having 3 per cent of the country’s population. Again, the Wall government has no plans to address this and used its recent Throne Speech to attack supporters of the Leap Manifesto who are calling for a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.

And it appears that a worse austerity budget is about to come.

CBC notes, “The government says the real work begins now … to get the books balanced by next year’s budget. It says everything is on the table in that discussion. [The province’s finance minister] says the Saskatchewan Party campaigned on no tax increases [but now says] people should not be surprised that property tax increases will be considered along with other changes.”