Saskatchewan Legislature. Wikimedia by wallissteveThe Sask. Party government has done little to address the struggles working people are facing, and opens the door for further cuts and privatization in health care, education, libraries, universities and the social service’s sector.

“This budget brings no relief for everyday people who are struggling to make ends meet. The year-over-year increase in Saskatchewan’s consumer price index was 4.7 per cent for February, but wages in this province are not keeping up,” said Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “We have the lowest minimum wage in the country, and too many workers – especially in our lowest paid sectors like community-based organizations – have gone years without a meaningful wage increase to keep up with the rising costs.”

The pandemic has shone a huge spotlight on the cracks in our public services. But despite the clear need for more investment, this budget still failed on several fronts. The education sector continues to face budget restraints with the annual increase failing to keep up with the rising costs of running a school division. Community-based organizations, such as childcare centres, group homes, and addiction treatment received paltry increases, and no commitment to multi-year funding.

“This budget completely misses the mark when it comes to investing in public services. What we see is inadequate funding for public services, while opening the door to further privatization in health care,” added Henley. “Our schools will still be overcrowded, our hospitals understaffed, and our community-based organizations with barely enough funding to keep the doors open. It is also concerning that Scott Moe has completely failed to recognize and address the ongoing staffing crisis in health care which is leading to burnout, rural health centre shutdowns, and service reductions.”

Henley pointed to a recent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives which concludes that Saskatchewan has a revenue problem. Saskatchewan reduced its revenue across several areas during the pandemic. This budget goes even further by letting oil and gas producers off the hook for $1.46 million worth of fees – this is on top of ongoing subsidies.

“With oil currently over $100 USD a barrel, it is not oil and gas companies that need a break – it is every day Saskatchewan people who are struggling. This budget continues the Sask. Party government’s trend of giving their donors tax breaks while the rest of us pay more through regressive taxation - user fee hikes and an extension of the PST to apply to movies, museums and fair grounds.”

CUPE is calling for the implementation of a progressive tax system to ensure higher income residents and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. This should include the introduction of new personal income tax brackets for higher incomes and a wealth tax for the rich.

“The pandemic is not over. Workers need paid sick days, personal protective equipment and fair wages. And our public services need robust investment so our citizens can have the quality of life they deserve,” concluded Henley. This budget fails to give workers and public services the support they need. I worry about the cuts we are going to see down the pipe as our public institutions deal with another year of funding shortfalls.”