Independent Rate Review

Res #: 14-19A
Number: 14
Year: 2019
Midterm: No
Expired: No
Responses Received: Yes
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations

WHEREAS rural residents increasingly rely on pipelines whose treated water is purchased directly or indirectly from city-owned utilities; 

WHEREAS many rural residents also use landfills and rely on fire coverage services which are owned and controlled by cities and other municipalities;

WHEREAS cities and SaskWater can raise charges for these services to rural customers and municipalities without having to prove the need for increased rates to any independent rate review body;

WHEREAS rural municipalities have to apply to the Saskatchewan Municipal Board for approval of utility rate increases while city-owned utilities do not;

WHEREAS rural utility customers and residents cannot vote or run in urban elections and therefore have no say on rate decisions that affect them;

BE IT RESOLVED that SARM lobby the province for a rate review mechanism to oversee water utility rates, landfill charges, and fire service coverage rates imposed directly or indirectly by cities, other municipalities and SaskWater on rural customers;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SARM ask the provincial government to prohibit further increases until a rate review mechanism is put in place.

Responses From: The Ministry of Government Relations

April 18, 2019

Municipalities are an autonomous level of government with authority to conduct most of their operations independent of provincial oversight. One of these areas of authority is to provide public utility services to the benefit of other municipalities, according to the terms of their agreement.

The province is only involved in such agreements to the extent of providing dispute resolution services. Under section 18 of The Cities Act and section 24 of The Municipalities Act, if a municipality has an agreement to provide public utility services to another municipality, then it may be referred by either party to the Saskatchewan Municipal Board for dispute resolution services, and the decision of that board is binding. This applies if the agreement does not already have a dispute resolution mechanism.

Both residents and municipalities have natural person powers, which enables them to negotiate and enter into agreements for the provision of services.  The service agreements are privately negotiated agreements between residents and a municipality or between residents and a corporation. It is the responsibility of the parties to the agreement to negotiate favourable terms or to find alternative arrangements.

Warren Kaeding – Minister of Government Relations