Premier has bad news for SUMA delegates

Premier Brad Wall addresses the SUMA convention on Monday. Photo courtesy Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association.

Monday, in a Saskatoon convention centre, six Prince Albert city councillors listened to a chilling speech from Premier Brad Wall. Revenue sharing, which sends $7.6 million in PST dollars to Prince Albert, might be in jeopardy.

During a visit to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) conference, the Premier announced that the provincial budget deficit had ballooned to $1.2 billion. He announced that revenue sharing is “on the table” as the government seeks to balance its books.

The revenue sharing agreement transfers a sum equivalent to one percentage point of the provincial sales tax to municipalities. As tax revenues dry up, the transfers are bound to fall in any case. But Coun. Ted Zurakowski said he heard hints that renegotiating the agreement’s terms might be an option.

That could put serious pressure on the city budget.

“If we take a hit on the revenue sharing deal, if it’s changed or they back away, we’re going to have to take a look at our budget,” Zurakowski said. “Our budget is already complete based on the current deal; if they change it, we’ll have to revisit.”

He knows what he took away from the Premier’s speech.

“The message there, I would characterize as three words: austerity, austerity, austerity.”

For more on this story, please see the Feb. 25 print or e-edition of the Prince Albert Daily Herald.