NDP Leader Ryan Meili says the provincial budget is a warning sign that the Saskatchewan Party will make cuts to key areas such as health and education instead of investing its way out of the pandemic.
Although the budget suggests record investments in both of those sectors, Meili said it still missed the mark. He emphasized that Saskatchewan people were already “stretched and stressed” prior to the pandemic, and that COVID-19 has only made the situation worse.
“People are hurting more and more and they’re looking to today’s budget for some indication that the government has a plan. Unfortunately, they won’t find it,” he said.
“There’s nothing here for seniors in a moment that demands a shift to home care and more support for long-term care. There’s nothing for childcare, no money for safely reopening and resourcing schools for a pandemic, no catching up to the following per-student funding.”
The province cited infrastructure projects in the highways budget as a boost to people and communities experiencing the economic consequences of COVID-19.
But, said Meili, those projects are likely to be completed by out-of-province companies bringing in out-of-province workers.
“Imagine, this is their pre-election budget,” he said.
“This is the budget where they’re trying to convince people they’ve got a plan, where they’re trying to convince people they won’t cause them harm, and they wanted to hide this budget. How much more will they want to hide what’s yet to come?”
Meili said it’s concerning that there’s no estimated deficit for next year to show the long-term economic impact of COVID-19.
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer presented spending estimates back in March, when she typically unveils the full budget. The legislature was put on hold earlier that month because of the pandemic, before the budget was tabled.
Meili has been calling on the Saskatchewan Party to reopen the legislature so it’s held accountable for its spending. On Monday, with MLAs returning to the legislature, five members of the opposition were able to try to do just that.
He looked back to 2017. When faced with a recession, he said the Saskatchewan Party doubled the PST, cut health care services for seniors, cut education from early childhood to post-secondary, cut Crown corporations and shut down the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.
Meili said the same cuts are likely to happen should they produce a post-election budget, and “it’ll make 2017 look like a walk in the park.” The provincial election is set for October 26.
Meili said the NDP differs because it will “wisely” try to balance the budget as fast as possible, whereas the Saskatchewan Party will “do it with so much pain and damage to our economy and to people, or they just will fail.”
“When you put dollars into home care, into childcare, into employing folks who are unemployed now, you get a return in GDP of nearly double every dollar you put in, not to mention all of the money you save down the road in less costs in health care and social services and justice,” said Meili about the NDP’s plans.
Last week, the opposition released its economic recovery plan called A People-First Recovery. However, it didn’t have any estimated costs stamped to it.
“It’s not our budget day,” said Meili, adding the numbers will come when the NDP releases its full election platform.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation supports government avoiding tax hikes
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) says it supports the government’s plan to revive the economy by avoiding tax increases.
In a news release, Prairie Director Todd MacKay said Saskatchewan’s recovery is just beginning.
“We’re deeply concerned about the growing debt, but getting Saskatchewanians back to work is the best way to get those numbers under control, so it’s important to keep taxes from weighing down families and businesses,” he said.
While the budget doesn’t include new taxes or tax hikes, read the release, it does include the reintroduction of indexation for income taxes to make sure families aren’t bumped into higher tax brackets when they get cost-of-living wage increases.
“Indexing tax brackets is a basic matter of fairness: taxpayers shouldn’t be bumped into higher tax brackets when they can’t actually afford to pay more,” said MacKay.
“Finance Minister Donna Harpauer is doing the right thing by reintroducing indexation.”
He added that as the province’s recovery continues, it will be critical to control the forecasted $2.4 billion deficit—which will “dramatically increase” with the combination of lower revenues and higher expenses.