Saturday November 22, 2014


Survey results are meant for general information only, and are not based on recognised statistical methods.

Don't touch the taxes


There's one thing that everybody can agree on: we don't want higher taxes.

Regardless of where we're from, how much money we make, who we vote for or even if we vote, the one issue that's guaranteed to create a furour is a tax increase.

Which is why it's surprising that Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall hinted at a possible increase for the education portion of property taxes during his speech to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association.

Even if all money from a tax increase would go to infrastructure, people would not be happy.

Wall remains the unquestioned king of Canadian premiers. His Saskatchewan Party has done a lot of good things over the past six years, as they have guided this province through much-needed and sustained growth, and he helped the province emerge from rough economic times globally.

Five years ago, the provincial government finally provided significant relief to Saskatchewan residents on the education portion of property tax. While the days of 60 per cent of property taxes going to schools were mercifully over, Saskatchewan residents still had a disproportionate share of tax money going to schools, leaving municipalities with an insufficient revenue base to complete necessary projects.

And while the execution of the Sask. Party's plan to cut the education portion of property tax had its flaws, it was a welcome relief for both taxpayers and municipalities.

That's why it's surprising to hear the premier broach the idea of raising the education portion of property tax. It's also surprising because Wall knows any basic tax increases will infuriate residents.

Everybody understands that Saskatchewan's infrastructure needs improvement. We have the most kilometres of paved roads in Canada; many of those roads are crumbling. Saskatchewan also needs new health care centres and schools.

Balanced budgets have become a sacred cow in Saskatchewan. While most balanced budgets have become suspect over the years, thanks to transfers from reserves and questionable bookkeeping methods, Saskatchewan residents expect that the finance minister will talk about two things on budget day: his shoes and a balanced budget.

The provincial government might eventually have to make a choice: raise taxes, complete infrastructure projects, or "balance" the budget.

If the so-called balanced budget is the priority, then infrastructure projects will have to be shelved, or taxes will have to be increased.

To do all three, decisions will have to be made. The government might have to consider additional private-public partnerships (P3s), if they make sense. (In many cases they are a valid option).

The days of Saskatchewan people viewing P3s and the private sector as a tool of the devil are thankfully coming to an end.

As long as roads are repaired, schools are built and health care facilities are funded, the budget is off to a good start. Just make sure that the education portion of property tax isn't increased. And that Estevan gets its CT scan. And that progress continues on twinning Highway 39.  



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