SGP on Budget 2021
The Saskatchewan Green Party has poured over the numbers and declares the 2021 Budget isn’t in the best interest of people or the environment. The SaskParty provincial budget doubles down on its anti-environmental corporate subsidies WHILE not spending anything on poverty relief.
“We may as well just call this budget ‘Scott Moe punishes province to show how upset he is at losing the Supreme Court carbon tax challenge”, says Naomi Hunter, leader of the Saskatchewan Green Party. Even discounting the obvious need for Covid-era compassion, Moe misses the mark in terms of planning and investment.”
Moe cut funds in half for the Climate Change and Adaptation branch. According to Saskatchewan’s 2021 Budget Estimates, the Premier cut our climate change funding from $5,873,000 in 2020-21 to $3,350,000 in 2021-22 — a reduction of more than $2.5 million. This shows yet again that the SaskParty isn’t serious about addressing the climate crisis. From an investment perspective, this is harmful to our local economy in the long-term as the rest of the world moves more rapidly towards efficiency and renewable energy initiatives.
The 2021 budget famously introduced a $150/year Electric Vehicle fee, which means Saskatchewan now has the only EV fee in Canada. Other provinces have overnight charging rates, purchase incentives, electric vehicle mandates or building codes that better accommodate EVs, but in Saskatchewan…? Scott Moe would have us believe they are doing this to help pay for the cost of highways. The irony of this is that Saskatchewan is so behind at setting up charging stations for EV’s on our highways that most EV use is in our urban centres right now.
“Maybe the SaskParty will put a $150 environmental tax on walking? That would be just as ridiculous!” stated Hunter. “I probably shouldn’t give them ideas though. I can actually see them instituting a walking tax!”
The $150/year EV tax is a cynical thumb in the eye to environmentalists and cheap play to the SaskParty’s perceived base.
“I’m a farmer, and I can tell you with confidence if the SaskParty really wanted our taxes to pay for roads, we would tax our farm trucks. We continue to benefit from the $105-million-a-year tax exemption on farm fuel, because they don’t want to upset us. What really gets us riled up though is Moe’s mismanagement and playing us all for fools.” says Hunter.
Premier Moe called this “a spending budget”; however all this means is that they simply intend to maintain financial support for their long-term corporate backers in the resource sector:
- The oil sector benefits by “modernizing and expanding the High Water-Cut Program”, they are changing the “royalty status of high-water wells for producers who make new investments in water handling. The change will make the wells more viable for producers and promote greater overall production.”
- More for oil! This budget provides oil producers with $3.8 million in annual royalty relief to help them “invest in new methane emissions reduction projects, and help support capture and commercialization rather than venting and flaring.”
- Potash benefits by “simplifying and reducing the royalty rate on sodium sulphate production, and introduces an improved capital investment credit to encourage added value and enhance Saskatchewan’s presence in growing potash fertilizer markets.”
“What we see here is the corporations who make large donations to the SaskParty continuing to benefit from that association.” states Hunter. “Meanwhile, after 13 months of a pandemic, income assistance recipients have only received a one time additional benefit of $50, and we continue to have the lowest minimum wage in the country. If this is ‘a spending budget’, where is the spending for those who need it the most? During the 3rd wave of the pandemic, the 2021 SaskParty budget doesn’t provide one single nickel to people living in poverty. This government is heartless.”
The meanest part of Sask Budget 2021 is that it doesn’t provide anything to people living in poverty. Individuals receiving Saskatchewan Income Support Benefits receive $574 for shelter and utilities ($525 outside of Saskatoon and Regina), leaving only $285 a month to live on. People with disabilities on the SAID program have now gone six years without a benefit increase while seeing major cuts to rental coverage and special needs.
“Scott Moe, why do you hate poor people?”, asks Hunter.
In 2019, 136 000 of the 1.1 million people in Saskatchewan were poor, up from 123 000 in 2016. The poverty gap of 38 per cent means that for persons in poverty, average income was 38 per cent below the Official Poverty Line (OPL).
The highest poverty rates in Saskatchewan are among children under the age of 18 in female lone-parent families and in persons aged 18 to 64 not living in families. We also have very high poverty rates among Indigenous persons, recent immigrants, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities.
The statistics show that poverty reduction in Saskatchewan lags behind other provinces.
This should surprise no one because the SaskParty prioritizes corporate profit over people’s lives — spending $2B for a bypass but refusing to fund a safe injection site in the midst of an overdose crisis. Policies like this are both cruel and fiscally irresponsible. Safe injection sites save lives and money, helping keep people out of jail, our hospitals, and our morgues.
That 2 billion dollars could instead: cover all pharmaceuticals costs for every Saskatchewan citizen for 2 years; fund community housing supports to over 73,000 families for 5 years; and, fully fund the operation of the STC for the next 75 years or more.
“The biggest question all of us need to be asking right now is, what will an Austerity Budget look like? If this is a spending budget, the SaskParty idea of Austerity is terrifying.” states Hunter. “This budget was an opportunity to jumpstart the economy by investing in the clean energy sector. The climate crisis gives us a timeline that requires immediate action. We needed to see real supports for those who need it most so all of us together can solve the climate crisis. For the sake of future generations — we must do better!”
Naomi Hunter, Leader – Saskatchewan Green Party