Wall hints at tax changes in speech to rural municipalities

March 14, 2017 - 5:08pm
Premier Brad Wall addresses the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) in Saskatoon on March 14, 2017.
Chris Vandenbreekel/650 CKOM
Premier Brad Wall addresses the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) in Saskatoon on March 14, 2017.

Premier Brad Wall provided more glimpses into the provincial budget Tuesday morning during an address to the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities in Saskatoon.

Wall repeated his sentiment that “everything is on the table” when considering how to tackle the province's projected $1.2-billion deficit.

He said the province is entertaining the possibility of raising the provincial sales tax, while lowering income and investment taxes.

“You also will see a shift from taxes that aren’t reliant on resources,” he told the SARM crowd.

Wall said it would make “economic sense” to move towards a consumption-based revenue stream, rather than focusing on income.

The premier noted the province’s bias is to maintain their current PST-sharing relationship with municipalities, but said some changes may be coming.

Wage rollbacks

Wall also addressed a suggested 3.5 per cent wage rollback for public sector employees, taking aim at critics who say he lacks compassion for the workers.

“I have great respect for them,” he said. “We (the government) value them.”

Unpaid days off were suggested again as a possibility for how the wage rollback would be implemented.

“Some are calling them ‘Wallidays,’” Wall said to laughter. “I prefer Cheval-days-off.”

'Working together:' SARM president

SARM President Ray Orb said the budget cuts could be tough on rural municipalities, but they’re willing to do their part to help tackle the deficit.

Orb told media SARM had a meeting with the provincial finance minister in January.

“We talked about some of the exemptions that agriculture has … with fuel exemptions, not paying tax on farm instruments and things like that,” he said.

Orb also acknowledged Wall for not pushing amalgamation on the rural municipalities as populations dwindle.

“We’re opposed to forced amalgamation because we think there are ways we can work voluntarily together,” he said, pointing to a number of RMs near Outlook, Sask. already heading in that direction.

“We have a group of about 50 municipalities working together towards better economic development. They’re doing like common bylaws, approaches to common interests.”

Wall told reporters after his speech it wasn’t the province’s place to force RMs to amalgamate.

The provincial budget is set to be released March 22, the same day as the federal budget’s release.