Report from the Legislature – March 23, 2017

The 2017-18 Provincial Budget is about decisions that will make our economy stronger and more competitive while dealing with the challenge of lower resource prices.

As you know, resource revenue in Saskatchewan has declined more than $1 billion and has stayed low for three years now, depleting reserves and the rainy-day fund.

Due the resource sector slowdown, tax revenue is down by hundreds of millions and a decade of record population growth is putting pressure on vital services.

We must move away from our level of reliance on resource revenues while ensuring important government programs and services are affordable and sustainable.

Our commitment to controlling and reducing government spending includes $250 million in total public sector compensation savings, consolidating 12 regional health authorities into one, holding health spending to a 0.7% increase and winding down STC and Executive Air Service.

The 2017-18 Provincial Budget ensures Saskatchewan taxes remain fair and competitive.  Modernizing and expanding the system will secure a more stable revenue base to help sustain valuable services such as health care, education, social assistance and capital investment.

This means increasing the PST rate to 6%, expanding the PST base and eliminating some exemptions.  Education Property Tax will be rebalanced to fund 40% of K-12 education costs.  To mitigate the effect of these changes, the Saskatchewan Low-Income Tax Credit is being enhanced.

Starting this year, we are shifting away from taxes on income and productivity by lowering personal and business income tax rates.  Everyone at every income level will pay less income tax and individuals and families in Saskatchewan will pay among the lowest income taxes in Canada.

Saskatchewan still has the lowest PST rate of any province with a provincial sales tax.  And even with these changes, every Saskatchewan resident at every level of income will still be paying significantly less in income tax and PST combined than they did in 2007 under the NDP.

Low taxes and tax incentives create a tremendous advantage in attracting new investment and jobs to our province, and the introduction of new growth tax incentives means Saskatchewan will have the lowest corporate tax rate and manufacturing and processing tax rate in Canada.

This Budget also includes investment in priority areas such as health, education and social services.  This includes funding for overcapacity and ER wait times in Regina and Saskatoon as well as $3.7 billion will go to schools, highways, bridges, hospitals and Crown infrastructure.

At a time when resource sector challenges remain, there are signs of confidence and renewal in our economy.

Recently, we learned Saskatchewan was leading the country in job growth.

A few weeks ago, Saskatchewan was named the best place in the world to invest in mining.

Crop production has surpassed 30 million tonnes for four consecutive years, and ag exports have doubled over the past decade.

Our population continues to grow.  17,000 more people in the past year means that we’ve grown by 163,000 in the past decade.

Budget 2017-18 is a plan that ensures growth continues, that reduces our reliance on resource revenues, and returns the budget to balance in three years.

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Many of the changes announced are difficult but we must ensure that our core government services like health care, education, and social services are affordable and sustainable for the long-term.

While other governments have decided to delay tough choices by simply running deficits indefinitely, history has shown that leads to even tougher choices later.  We will not do that.

Together, we can and will meet this challenge.  We will return the budget to balance while ensuring Saskatchewan’s economy maintains its strong leadership position in Canada.