Saskatchewan. Party government budget is another failure for workers and public services

Saskatchewan. The party government has done little to address the hardships facing working people and is opening the door to further cuts and privatization in health care, education, libraries, universities and the social services sector.

“This budget brings no relief to ordinary people who are struggling to make ends meet. Saskatchewan’s consumer price index year-over-year increase was 4.7% in February, but wages in that province aren’t 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-paying sectors like community organizations — have gone years without meaningful wage increases to meet rising costs.”

The pandemic has shone the spotlight on the flaws in our public services. But despite the obvious need for additional investment, this budget still failed on several fronts. The education sector continues to face budget constraints as the annual increase fails to keep pace with rising school division operating costs. Community agencies, such as daycares, group homes and addiction treatment centers, have received paltry increases and no multi-year funding commitment.

“This budget completely misses the target when it comes to investing in public services. What we are seeing is underfunding of public services, while opening the door to further privatization of health care,” Henley added. “Our schools will always be overcrowded, our hospitals understaffed and our community organizations with barely enough funding to keep the doors open. It is also concerning that Scott Moe has utterly failed to recognize and address the current staffing crisis in health care which is resulting in burnout, closure of rural health centers, and service reductions.

Henley referenced a recent study by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives that concludes Saskatchewan has a revenue problem. Saskatchewan has cut revenue in several areas during the pandemic. This budget goes one step further by letting oil and gas producers off the hook for $1.46 million in fees – this is in addition to ongoing subsidies.

“With oil currently above $100 USD a barrel, it’s not the oil and gas companies that need a break – it’s the people of Saskatchewan who are struggling every day. This budget pursues Sask. The tendency of party government to give tax breaks to its donors while the rest of us pay more through regressive taxation – hikes in user fees and an extension of DVT to be applied to films, museums and fairgrounds.

CUPE Calls for a progressive tax system to be put in place to ensure that high income residents and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. This should include the introduction of new personal income tax brackets for the highest earners and a wealth tax for the wealthy.

“The pandemic is not over. Workers need paid sick leave, personal protective equipment and fair wages. And our public services need strong investments so that our citizens can have the quality of life they deserve,” Henley concluded. This budget does not give workers and public services the support they need. I worry about the cuts we will see in the pipeline as our public institutions face another year of funding shortfalls.