The provincial budget in Saskatchewan came down last week, and it smacks of a document in the first year of a new mandate.
There is nothing here to have taxpayers overly happy, and perhaps nothing major to have concerns about either.
On paper it is a balanced budget, something the government is taking great pride in, although when you forecast only a $15 million surplus on a near $12 billion budget even a minor hiccup can evaporate the thin margin and send things into deficit.
What the budget did do was make a lot of changes which frankly will put burrs into a lot of people’s blankets, although they may wear away before we get to the polls in four years.
Seniors are not going to like prescriptions climbing from $15 to $20, a whopping 33 per cent increase. Five dollars may not seem like a lot but when you factor in many seniors are on multiple drugs, and refills come along monthly, it adds up quickly for many.
For those on fixed incomes, or looking at pensions battered by losses in recent years, and the situation is not particularly palatable.
The government also announced a retreat on its large economic development regions. This one may not come as a surprise since the larger entities were not well-suited to aiding a hairdresser establish in a small town, but when it came to major projects, such as a potash mine, those involved were likely to deal direct with the province, not some regional entity with limited powers.
The result where regional entities which were largely ineffective in the face of old community rivalries and their large scale.
The question now is who helps Saskatchewan’s smaller communities with economic development? Yorkton may be able to have its own dedicated staff person, but that is much more difficult for communities such as Langenburg, Canora, and Foam Lake to manage.
The film industry is up in arms with the budget which cut the Film Industry Tax Credit. Given the promotion for the province successes such as Corner Gas and Little Mosque On The Prairies generated for Saskatchewan this is a cost-saving which makes little sense.
It also leaves Saskatchewan as the only province without a tax credit to the film sector, which means the Wall government has deemed it fine with them if the cameras no longer roll here. That is short-sighted in a world with hundreds of television channels, and more coming every day, in need of product.
And as a follow-up to the budget, the province is creating a Crown Corporation to run tourism.
Does that seem a strange step for a party which philosophically leans toward moving away from Crowns? It would seem so.
And, it begs the question what does the government think it can do more effectively than the industry-led Tourism Saskatchewan? The record of government doing a better job of things that the industry themselves is not great regardless of the political stripe.
It seems it may be a way to muzzle opposition to changes to regional and provincial parks that TS have voiced in the past, while allowing tourism to become a new way for the government to applaud its own efforts moving forward.
Overall the budget is not a disaster, but there are enough annoying changes which seem to make little sense that it is far from a winning document for Wall and the Saskatchewan Party.