Report from the Legislature – January 7, 2015

A new year brings renewed hope and optimism, new opportunities and challenges.  Just as we were at this time last year, we are confident that Saskatchewan’s economy will remain strong.  Our province’s unemployment rate remains the lowest in Canada (24 consecutive months), our population (1,129,899) continues to grow and, thanks to the hard work of our people, our rate of job creation is more than three times the national average.

In the first 10 months of 2014, manufacturing sales were up 5.9 per cent over the same period the year before while, in that same period, wholesale trade totals increased by 4.0 per cent to a record $21.6 billion.  These are signs of an economy that is not only growing and strong but also increasingly diversified.  It is important to focus on these and other economic indicators because they are the foundation needed to build a broader tax base and a better quality of life.

A strong and diverse Saskatchewan economy gives us a greater ability to invest in the people, programs and infrastructure that make a real difference in our day-to-day lives.  When our economy is strong, Saskatchewan people are strong because we have more resources to fix highways, build new schools and invest in housing, hospitals and long-term care.

One of the greatest challenges we currently face is the declining price of oil.  While forecasters expect oil prices to strengthen in the coming year, the volatility that we’re experiencing is going to impact the provincial budget.  To that end, our government is committed to carefully managing spending and balancing the budget with the priorities of Saskatchewan people.

Lower provincial taxes are among the many reasons why Saskatchewan is an attractive place to live, work and play.  Our government has introduced various measures to reduce personal income taxes including increases to personal, spousal and child exemption amounts, the Low Income Tax Credit, Active Families Benefit and a First-Time Homebuyers’ Tax Credit.

Since 2008, approximately 112,000 low-income individuals have been removed from the tax rolls and no longer pay any provincial income tax.

Individual taxpayers now pay no Saskatchewan income tax on their first $18,960 of income while a family of four pays no Saskatchewan income tax on their first $49,155.  I am proud to say that this is the highest tax-free income threshold for a family of four in Canada.

A family of four with $50,000 annual income has now seen their provincial income tax cut by more than 95 per cent since 2007 –- from about $2,300 in income tax to less than $100 in income tax in 2015.  By the end of this year, a family of four with $50,000 income will have saved about $19,000 through our government’s various tax reductions.

Overall, Saskatchewan residents have saved approximately $490 million through lower personal income taxes – but it wasn’t always this way.  The previous NDP government raised taxes 17 times during their 16 years in power; including three PST hikes and two personal income tax hikes.  In contrast, our government understands that Saskatchewan people work hard for their money and we’re committed to ensuring that they continue to keep more of it.