For Immediate Release
Provincial Budget has Significant Ramifications for Rural Saskatchewan
Over the last week, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) has been trying to understand the full ramifications that the 2017 Provincial Budget will have on rural municipalities (RM) and residents, but some unanswered questions remain.
Since October 2016, SARM proactively met with the Ministers of Agriculture, Highways and Infrastructure, Environment, Government Relations, Finance, Justice, Health, and Rural and Remote Health to advocate for rural interests in the months and weeks preceding the budget. Following the release of the budget, SARM has met with Minister Duncan, Minister Morgan, Minister Moe and Minister Stewart.
Several budget decisions will negatively impact agricultural producers. Changes to the education property tax will have a large impact on ag producers and property owners. On April 1, farmers will lose the fuel tax exemption on bulk purchases of gasoline and see the diesel exemption reduced to 80 per cent. Changes to fuel tax exemptions are expected to increase provincial government tax revenue by $40.2 million, representing a significant impact on producers. The Saskatchewan Pastures Program is also being phased out. SARM wants to ensure this process is open, transparent, and fair.
The closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) is challenging for rural residents. Rural Saskatchewan relies on STC for passenger and freight services. STC transports individuals to medical appointments and delivers important freight including dialysis machines, blood, water samples, and library materials. SARM will work with the Province to ensure the impact of the STC closure is minimal.
SARM is disappointed that the Municipal Roads for the Economy Program (MREP) is seeing a $2 million reduction from the $16 million provided in 2016/17 which could result in cuts to the Clearing the Path Maintenance Grant and RM construction projects in 2017/18. The Irrigation Structure Repair and Replacement Program, which provided financial assistance to repair and replace irrigation structures, has also been cancelled.
The budget also announced the discontinuation of SaskPower and SaskEnergy grants in lieu of taxes to municipalities. “RMs have never received grants in lieu of taxes from SaskEnergy or SaskPower, despite lobbying for equal treatment of RMs for more than 15 years,” said SARM President Ray Orb.
SARM members are worried about what the sale of 900 provincial railway hopper cars means for level of service, as they do not want to see service disruptions or backlogs. The loss of these grain cars may result in more trucks on municipal roadways, which creates a safety concern and further pressure on roadway infrastructure. In addition, shortline railways are losing a $900,000 maintenance grant. “We will meet with impacted associations, such as the Saskatchewan Shortline Railway Association,” said President Orb.
“The SARM Board of Directors will continue to meet with Ministers and senior officials to advocate for rural residents and is seeking further information from provincial ministries on aspects of the budget that are unclear,” said President Orb.
For more information, please contact:
Jay Meyer, Executive Director