Regina Mayor Michael Fougere and provincial Finance Minister Kevin Doherty continue to disagree and butt heads on how a funding shortfall should be made up by the City of Regina.
Faced with a $1.3 billion deficit from the last year, Doherty said they are asking municipalities to contribute less than three per cent, or about $33 million. He said they’re asking everyone in the province to backfill the financial hole.
“I keep hearing the mayors saying that we’re balancing the budget on the backs of municipalities. I just think that’s an overblown reaction with respect to asking them for 2.5 per cent of covering that deficit,” said the minister.
Fougere has insisted he’s not in favour of the city dipping into its reserves to pay off the financial hole, reiterating that Monday night during a meeting about the budget.
“They are not meant to cover off over expenditures, they are not meant in our case to cover off a loss in revenue on the operating side. They’re meant to plan for the future. They are not meant to cover off a decision by the province to cut funding. That’s not what they’re there for,” said the mayor, adding it’s not sustainable.
But Doherty continues to push the city in that direction.
“(Fougere’s) got $236 million available to him in his rainy day fund. He expects me to go and borrow more money on behalf of the provincial taxpayer to keep his city whole, to keep the city of Regina whole, and not have to utilize any of their reserves. We just disagree with that approach.”
Fougere said if they did take money from their reserves to cover what will be an ongoing shortfall, they would eventually deplete their reserves, much like the Wall government did with its rainy day fund. The mayor said they’d then have to go to Regina residents and ask for even more in taxes.
Doherty said he doesn’t dispute the fact the province’s rainy day fund is gone, but pointed to the province keeping initiatives like municipal revenue sharing in place, and whole. He said the city hasn’t seemed to have acknowledged corporate and personal income taxes are going down, which are in line with the province’s growth agenda.
The mayor has said he believes the province is simply downloading onto the city.
“I find the choice of words rather strange. We’ve been uploading if you will for the last 10 years since we’ve been in office here with respect to municipal revenue sharing and infrastructure funding here in the city of Regina,” countered Doherty.
The minister pointed out how they’ve pitched in for the new stadium and $1.88 billion Regina Bypass.
Fougere said talks with the province aren’t happening at the moment but he does expect to have some sort of conversation with the Wall government in the coming days. Where those conversations go, the mayor said, he doesn’t know.