Questionable features to new Saskatchewan provincial budget still exist
The second edition of the three-year Saskatchewan Party plan to eliminate the $1 billion annual deficit wasn’t nearly as controversial as the first edition.
That first edition raised storms of protest over expecting government employees to take a nine per cent wage cut over three years, over insistence that library users rely on Google instead of paper books, over depriving poor people of a funeral service, over loss of rural bus service for thousands of people, over cuts that increased local property taxes, just to mention some of the just grievances. This budget is mild by comparison but does contain some questionable matters.
The decision to close new applications to the rental allowance supplement for low income residents seems callous and harsh. The cancellation until a new federal-provincial agreement is negotiated is premature. Why not wait for a new agreement?
To some this decision sends a message that the Saskatch- ewan Government doesn’t care if more people become homeless. Keeping the allowance certainly wouldn’t break the treasury.
The application of provincial sales tax (PST) to sales of light used vehicles is questionable, given the Saskatchewan Party was originally elected on a promise to kill that tax; the argument made by the party years ago was based on the fact these vehicles have already had PST collected. This opportunistic tax partially transfers a tax burden from one group of Saskatchewan Party supporters to the whole taxpaying population.
During the Saskatchewan Party leadership campaign solid farm objection to the PST on crop insurance was met with promises and legislation repealing the $65 million on premiums for crop, health and life insurance. The new used vehicle PST will raise $95 million a year and shift a significant piece of that rural insurance burden onto urban taxpayers. There is no argument for farmer hardship from PST on insurance premiums. Farmers are doing so well some older operators have postponed retirement as they have never made this amount of money before.
Taxes are supposed to be fair and equitable to all taxpayers.
And the budget speech lack of any estimate for the impact of revenues and costs of legalized cannabis this summer seems odd and out of touch with normal accounting practices.
There is no noted allocation in justice budgets for the costs. Finance Minster Donna Harpauer’s budget speech claimed too much uncertainty to estimate revenues. Surely the government must have some idea of the cost to implement legal cannabis.
The revenues will help cut into the forecast $365 million deficit. Why not take a conservative guess?