As a new Premier takes the helm in Saskatchewan, it’s a good time to take a look at the relationship between the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan. Since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister in November of 2015, the list of federal initiatives benefiting Saskatchewan has been steadily growing:
- Federal transfer payments to this province to support services like health care and education are running at about $2.5 billion per year. Beyond the usual annual indexing, federal funding for health in Saskatchewan will increase by another $350 million over the coming decade – specifically for mental health and homecare. We are also adding a further $39 million over three years for early learning and childcare.
- Recent federal improvements to Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement will be particularly helpful in Saskatchewan because of the significant number of seniors in our provincial population. The Canada Pension Plan is also being upgraded. Saskatchewan played a constructive role in the federal/provincial negotiations to increase CPP benefits.
- Saskatchewan’s 61,000 small business corporations (including many family farms) are gaining from a cut in the federal small business tax rate. We took that rate down to 10% on January 1st this year, and it will drop further to 9% a year from now.
- Of the 570,000 individuals in Saskatchewan who pay federal income tax, more than 300,000 are now eligible for our middle-class tax cut. (The vast majority of the others were already taxed at lower rates.)
- To further bolster disposable incomes, side-by-side with tax cuts, we have created a new Canada Child Benefit which is providing some $900 million each year in cash support (paid monthly) to approximately 120,000 Saskatchewan families.
- On top of on-going federal investments of about $9 million annually for affordable housing in Saskatchewan, we have added another $54 million over two years to boost the supply of decent, safe, affordable places to live. And through the next 10 years, Saskatchewan will share fulsomely in our new $40 billion National Housing Strategy.
- To promote higher education, advanced skills, science and innovation, the federal government has committed close to $200 million over the past two years – through the University of Regina, the University of Saskatchewan, and several other institutions of learning and research in our province.
- By embedding meaningful environmental principles in our economic development plans, we have put the Government of Canada in a position to say “yes” to two major pipelines to move western Canadian resources into export markets (Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain line from Edmonton to Burnaby and Line-3 by Enbridge from Alberta to Minnesota). Together these projects will generate $11 billion in private sector investment and 22,000 jobs. Plus, there’s the Keystone XL pipeline across the United States. To date, most of the major contracts to build the pipe for these projects have gone to Evraz steel in Regina.
- For public and community infrastructure, federal investments of nearly $600 million in Saskatchewan have been announced over the past two years to help with highways, bridges, streets, transit systems, water and wastewater projects, energy upgrades, recreation facilities, and much more. We’re generating good jobs today, while building capacity for a stronger economy and more attractive communities tomorrow.
- The Government of Canada has transferred $365 million to Saskatchewan to help the province take control of 19 rural water management facilities.
- We are working on a Saskatchewan-friendly agenda in world trade, including important new trade agreements with Europe (being implemented) and with 10 Pacific nations (just concluded), while we continue to focus diligently on renewing NAFTA.
- We have extended the existing federal contract for training military pilots in Saskatchewan at “15 Wing” near Moose Jaw.
- And we’re advancing new transportation legislation to give western farmers more leverage with railways in moving their crops in a timely manner.
This is all part of a national economic plan which is yielding encouraging results.
The Canadian economy is growing at about twice the average of the previous 10 years. The deficit is lower than projected. Canada’s debt-ratio is the best in the G-7 and on a steady downward track to get better every year. Federal taxes are coming down for the middle-class and small business. And more than 666,000 net new jobs have been generated since our government came to office.
There’s one significant issue in dispute between the Canadian government and Saskatchewan, and that’s the Pan Canadian Framework for dealing with Climate Change. While every other provincial and territorial government has agreed that putting some type of price on carbon pollution is an essential part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Saskatchewan alone has argued that carbon pollution should continue to be free.
The discussions will continue, hopefully constructively, based upon several key principles:
- Saskatchewan has “first rights” to design and control its own carbon pricing system to best suit its circumstances.
- Like Manitoba and British Columbia, Saskatchewan’s design could provide large exemptions for agriculture. Like Alberta, Saskatchewan’s design could also provide exemptions for small oil and gas operations.
- If Saskatchewan designs its own system, it would keep all the revenue and control how it is used. It could choose to slash provincial income or property or sales taxes, or cut its royalty rates on oil, gas, potash and uranium production. It could reverse most of the tax increases it imposed in its own provincial budget last year. It could reward farmers for carbon sinks.
- If Saskatchewan joins the Pan Canadian Framework – like every other provincial/territorial government – it will benefit from all federal programs and investments to promote and adopt the best new technologies for reducing carbon emissions and accelerating clean growth. That could well include additional federal support for Saskatchewan’s carbon capture and storage technology.
- If the provincial government declines to join the framework with a comprehensive made-in-Saskatchewan carbon pricing policy, a federal backstop will come into effect to ensure a level playing field across the country. This would also provide the sound and credible basis necessary to approve future developments like additional pipelines to export western resources.
I hope we can work successfully together, with ingenuity and goodwill, to position Saskatchewan for innovation, diversification, growth and prosperity for decades to come.