SUMA 2019 ‘one of the best conventions’ yet: Dionne

Mayor Greg Dionne delivers the 2019 State of the City address at the Ches Leach Lounge on Thursday, Jan. 31. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne is calling this week’s trip to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) annual convention one of his most productive yet.

From Feb. 3-6, delegates from the province’s cities towns and villages met in Saskatoon for a series of workshops, meetings with provincial government ministers and to pass resolutions.

Dionne had a few priorities in mind when he left for Saskatoon, including advocating for an improved service road south of town and continuing o push for a new hospital.

“To me, it was one of the best conventions,” Dionne said.

“I was really lucky. I ended up meeting with all five ministers.”

Dionne said the two sides settled on a formula to repair the service roads south of the city for this year and called the conversation surrounding the new hospital “positive.” Dionne reiterated that he expects to hear more about the hospital during the March 20 provincial budget. He’ll be in Regina for budget day. This week he was able to meet with Scott Livingstone, the new CEO in charge of the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

“He’s very interested in .A. and has been here quite a few times,” Dionne said.

“They’re going to move the project forward. I’m very pleased to hear the hospital is still front and centre.

“Almost all of my items are moving ahead,” Dionne continued,  “I was very positive.”

The second day of the convention was highlighted by a major announcement from Scott Moe. The premier told the gathered representatives that municipal revenue sharing would be 3/4 of one percentage point of the PST going forward, after being frozen for a year.

While it wasn’t as much as some would have wanted, it is a four per cent increase from previous funding levels.

“You always want more, but you’ve got to be happy it’s going in the right direction, that it’s gong up,” Dionne said.

He indicated Prince Albert’s share of the additional $10 million will be about $280,000, or about one mill of taxes.

Previous to the province’s expansion of PST, municipalities received one per cent of PST revenue.

Although the overall cut municipalities get has shrunk, the amount of money they get will increase thanks to the higher PST and the elimination of some sales tax exemptions.

“I wanted to see quite a bit more because we’ve lost a lot of that in the past, Dionne said. “But at least it’s moving forward and we’re getting more. I was worried about more cuts because we have finished our budget. I was worried we would get less and then have a challenge for our budget moving forward. In this case, we will not.”

Other mayors from elsewhere in Saskatchewan praised the move as providing some predictability for municipalities. In his announcement, Moe said the change will allow revenue sharing to be reliable, transparent and predictable.

“Its always good to know what you’re going to get,” Dionne said.

“The risk is it’s still based on PST, so if purchases go down .. we get (less) money. The one year we got almost 10 per cent (more) because we were booming and people made big purchases. It’s a loss and a gain, a loss and a gain, but at least you know what you’re getting, as it’s based on two years behind. You already know when you go into the budget whether you’re gaining or losing and you can really do your planning around it.”