Provincial and municipal leaders in Saskatchewan are reacting to the federal budget.
People who are collecting EI benefits in regions deemed to be the hardest hit by job losses will be eligible for an additional 20 weeks of benefits, up to a maximum of 70 weeks. Those extra weeks of benefits will only be available to people in 12 specific regions, while people in other regions will only be eligible for an extra five weeks of EI.
Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall is disappointed with the federal budget, in particular with the changes to EI. The changes will impact those living in the north, but not the south part of the province.EI. The changes will impact those living in the north, but not the south part of the province.
“Yes that will include the Lloydminster area, which is a big part of our oil patch and that will be helpful for those workers, but the rest of our oil patch is in the southeast and the southwest,” Wall told reporters after the budget was delivered. “They have missed a big part of Saskatchewan’s oil patch with this initiative.”
He was also hoping for extra dollars for the province because of the fact taxpayers pay so much to equalization.
“The energy sector downturn has hit Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, and (we were told) expect some recognition of that in the budget,” Wall said. “We just haven’t seen it here, now.”
Any money Saskatchewan will receive will be on a per capita basis only.
Municipal leaders welcome infrastructure investment
The Liberals are promising $6.6 billion in spending for infrastructure projects over two years.
Municipal leaders in Saskatchewan are welcoming the Liberal infrastructure plan. The federal government will now cover up to half the cost of transit projects and water and wastewater systems like pipes and treatment plants.
Regina Mayor Michael Fougere gave the federal budget a nod of approval.
“There is a lot of money being spent on municipalities and for us it’s a good budget,” he told reporters at city hall.
Fougere is pleased there will be short and long term funding for affordable housing, a transit maintenance facility and for roads and bridges
“This is a very solid budget for municipalities, they talked a lot about a new relationship with municipalities and we’re seeing some direct response, so we’re very pleased,” Fougere said.
Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchsion is also giving the federal budget a positive review.
“There is a tremendous amount in this budget that appears to be very positive for us, and we look forward to the details from the administration over the next week to two weeks at this time,” Atchison said.
Atchsion said he is particularly pleased with funding for affordable housing.
In a news release, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce said the group is pleased to see significant investment in funding for First Nations across Canada, saying that it will help address education and employment initiatives.
The Chamber of Commerce also approved of the direct investment into infrastructure spending.
The Liberal government is deferring a campaign promise to cut the small business income tax rate from 11 per cent to 9 per cent.
The Chamber of Commerce expressed disappointment that the plan to cut taxes for small businesses has been postponed indefinitely.
REVIEWS MIXED FROM FIRST NATIONS LEADERS
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron said the $8.4 billion investment to address education and infrastructure is a “good start.”
“There’s some light at the end of the tunnel. We look forward to the future because we have to continue advocate and lobby for that better quality of life.”
The $634-million earmarked for child welfare services over five years falls well short, according to social worker and child advocate Cindy Blackstock.
“The question is it every OK for a First Nations child to get less than other kids because of their race. This budget says yes, it is OK for that.”
Blackstock said on the surface the commitment appears significant, but adds the vast majority of the funds are contingent on the Liberal’s winning a second term.