Over the past number of months, I’ve heard serious concerns from people and local businesses across the province about the Sask. Party’s decision to hike and expand the PST — how it threatens their livelihoods and is hurting our economy.
In the 2017-18 budget, the Sask. Party rammed through a drastic hike that doubled the amount Saskatchewan people pay in PST each year. They increased it from five percent to six percent and expanded it to cover goods and services not previously covered like construction labour, insurance, children’s clothes and restaurant meals. They ignored the direct and dire warnings from local businesses of how this would further slow down an already struggling economy and cost many workers their jobs.
This unfair tax hike on the middle class has hit the construction industry particularly hard. The value of building permits is down 20 percent year over year. The number of residential building permits has dropped 30 per cent from a year earlier.
When I was in Moose Jaw, I heard from local businesses that in Moose Jaw alone, the number of new homes built has dropped from 120 new builds in 2012 to only 10 this year. This has hit workers hard, leaving 14,000 fewer people employed in construction today than in 2015. Sadly, many construction workers are forced to leave for other provinces where the likelihood of finding full-time work is higher.
The Sask. Party’s PST hike is also driving up the cost of living, leaving less money in the pockets of hardworking people. Restaurants have thus been hit with a double whammy, with people cutting back on spending while the industry has also been hit hard by the imposition of the PST onto restaurant meals. Since the PST was hiked and expanded, restaurants have been struggling. Restaurants Canada data shows food service sales growth in Saskatchewan is far behind provinces like Alberta.
Through the PST increase, the Sask. Party is creating additional hardships for people who are already struggling. It is a clear example of making people, local businesses and workers pay for the Sask. Party’s years of financial mismanagement and their costly and mismanaged projects such as the Regina Bypass, the carbon capture debacle and the GTH.
The record is clear: during years of record revenue, the Sask. Party was unable to balance the budget. During the best years, they didn’t save a dime. They drained the province’s Rainy Day Fund and piled on debt through mismanagement. They’ve doubled the debt and doubled the PST. It’s clear they’ve made the wrong choices, choices that hurt people and harm the economy. And it’s middle class families that are forced to pay for this mismanagement.
It’s clear the Sask. Party government cannot be trusted with Saskatchewan’s finances. They should reverse the addition of PST to construction labour, insurance, restaurant meals and children’s clothes to lower costs and help the economy recover and create needed jobs. Saskatchewan people, local businesses and workers deserve nothing less.
Trent Wotherspoon is the NDP Finance Critic and MLA for Regina Rosemont.