The Government of Saskatchewan has cancelled energy rate increases for 2023 and 2024 in an attempt to increase economic growth.
Minister Responsible for SaskEnergy Don Morgan made the announcement in a press release on Thursday. Morgan said the government has directed the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel to cancel SaskEnergy delivery rate increases of 5 per cent, which were scheduled for July 1, 2023 and July 1, 2024.
Morgan said the cancellation would keep energy rates affordable for Saskatchewan residents.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) applauded the move, calling the decision “a positive step toward mitigating cost pressures.”
CFIB provincial affairs director Brianna Solberg said small businesses still face significant financial hurdles, but cancelling the energy rate increases will go a long way to helping them recover.
“We believe today’s announcement to forgo plans to hike SaskEnergy rates will serve to aid small businesses on their road to recovery,” Solberg said in a press release. “We are glad to see the Saskatchewan government recognize the concerns of small businesses and we hope to see the province continue to take steps to help create an environment where small businesses can survive and thrive.”
Solberg said fuel and energy costs are the two biggest issues preventing Saskatchewan small businesses from growing. She also said 93 per cent of Saskatchewan businesses have seen their energy costs increase, despite consumption levels staying the same or decreasing.
Although she welcomed the rate cancellation, Solberg said recent SaskPower rate hikes of 11 per cent have caused further challenges. She said many business owners cannot pass these increases on to their customers, and that further cuts into their bottom line.
“Freezing energy rates is a much-needed measure to get small businesses back on track,” Solberg said. “Only half of Saskatchewan small businesses are back to making normal sales, and the majority are still facing significant pandemic-related debt and stress. Many business owners have been left wondering if they will ever be able to recover, or if they should simply close their doors permanently.”
In addition to calling for an end to SaskPower and SaskEnergy rate increases, the CFIB has also asked the province to suspend collecting the provincial fuel tax.
After energy, Solberg said fuel costs are the primary concern for Saskatchewan business owners.