Saskatchewan’s NDP opposition is highlighting what it calls a continued lack of long-term thinking in the 2018 provincial budget.
NDP Finance Critic Cathy Sproule said Tuesday there is “no relief in sight for Saskatchewan families,” as they will now have to pay more for things like added surcharges on SaskEnergy bills and PST on used vehicles.
“This budget shows that in just two years, Saskatchewan people have seen a 60 per cent increase in the sales tax they owe and 10 per cent increase in their electricity bills,” Sproule said, referring to various PST exemptions cancelled in the last budget along with a new blanket surcharge of five per cent on SaskEnergy bills.
“The people of Saskatchewan are definitely feeling the fatigue of these increased costs through taxes, through fees, through their power bills.”
With so many extra costs heaped on, Sproule said it will put more and more pressure on people struggling to make ends meet.
$30 million to education not enough
The NDP is also calling out the government for what it calls a failure to fully restore $54 million in funding cuts to education last year.
The $30 million in additional funding promised by Premier Scott Moe for hiring 400 new teachers or educational assistants falls short in the eyes of the NDP.
“If you picked my pocket for a dollar then offered me 50 cents I should be happy about it,” Sproule commented, calling it a big disappointment to teachers.
“This is definitely a negative track that the government’s on for education funding. Our students — the classrooms are getting fuller, there’s more and more need for new schools, there’s a need for lower people teacher ratios, and cuts just simply don’t make any sense in education.”
Sproule said the government cannot move backwards on education funding, calling the $30 million a big disappointment.
Loss of government and Crown jobs
The finance critic is also raising concerns about the government’s plan to save $35 million dollars this year and again next year through cuts to Crown corporation and government jobs.
“It may not be layoffs, but it will be loss of jobs for sure because through attrition those jobs – that work is no longer being done,” Sproule said.
The province did give up on last year’s plan for forced cutbacks to save $250 million.
Surcharges to make up for grants-in-lieu
The NDP views the partial replacement of grants-in-lieu with a five per cent blanket surcharge from SaskEnergy as a way to offload taxes on to municipalities.
On a positive note, Sproule gave credit to the SaskParty government for listening to the calls for improving supports to mental health and to autism funding.
However, Sproule also pointed to the impending legalization of marijuana being missing from budget considerations.
Potential revenue and expenses for legalized marijuana are not being considered in any kind of forecast for this year’s provincial budget.