In a recent talk with Kindersley MLA Ken Francis, one topic brought up outside of his return from Legislature was Saskatchewan’s latest changes to the Provincial Sales Tax, and Francis shared his opinion on what he feels PST does for the people of Saskatchewan.
“As far as the expansion of the PST, you know that's a decision that wasn't made lightly. We're not a government that likes to tax. We would rather reduce taxes, but the fact remains that we need to balance budgets and that's part of our policy as a government and a party to have balanced budgets.”
He doesn’t see a lot of different ways around it.
“We only have so many ways to do that. You either increase your revenue, or you cut your services,” said Francis, referencing the ICU bed shortage that was amplified over the past couple of years due to COVID, “We found our ICU beds inadequate, so you know, we've had initiatives on clearing up that surgical backlog. Raising the PST was an unpopular thing for us to even consider, but I always say that PST does go to the services that we all kind of depend and rely on, so that's one tax that I pay, that I know we see value in at least.”
The increases to things like golf memberships and Roughrider tickets are going to make the most noise, but Francis wants people to focus on the situation that the province is in. The gap has to be bridged somehow and the local MLA wants people to know there are only so many ways you can do it.
“When you're running a half a billion-dollar deficit you kind of have to look for the places where you can generate that income even though it's unpopular.”
Looking back to the budget, Francis talked about how being so close to the Alberta border has created a locally sourced conversation for him on why our province wasn’t getting rid of its provincial gas tax.
“You know Alberta got rid of theirs for a period of time, but at any rate, the difference between us and Alberta is for every dollar of increase in the oil price, the government of Alberta receives $500 million in extra revenue. And Saskatchewan for every dollar of increase in oil price per barrel, we receive $14 million,” stated Francis, “They're much more heavily weighted with oil and gas in their provincial budget structure than we are here. We got away from that back, I believe it was the 2017 budget. We got away from resource revenue reliance by expanding the PST to 6%, to get away from that volatility of the ups and downs of resource revenue.
What he wants people to understand is that Alberta’s ability to rebate people with regards to gas price, is because the higher the price of oil is, the more money they make. Still Francis isn’t going to shy away from the conversation, as he sees the price of gas going higher and higher around the country.
“The thing is, it affects everybody. We have to drive to do anything here, so it affects us far more than the urban people. I think it does anyway, because you know we have to travel so far just to do basics. We're keeping an eye on it as a provincial government. It's a little early to be saying we should be pulling this tax off or changing our forecast too much (so soon into this years budget).”
The recent rebate from SGI was one thing implemented to help with that affordability, and Francis wants people to think about the fact Saskatchewan is one of the best jurisdictions in the nation on keeping more of what you earned.
“There's a higher threshold here before you start paying tax, so it's kind of after-tax money that you have to look at sometimes. But we are keeping an eye on the affordability issue, and as a Treasury board, we're watching closely what happens with commodity prices and what not.”
The recent budget release and Legislature sitting were major steps to the tune of “Getting Back on Track” here in Saskatchewan.