Saskatchewan is experiencing a rare phenomenon, with the two main provincial political parties both undergoing a leadership race. In these exceptional circumstances, SUMA took the opportunity to ask leadership candidates about several issues that are important to Saskatchewan hometowns. In late October, we wrote to the declared candidates for the Saskatchewan Party and Saskatchewan NDP, asking for their responses by November 17. (Another candidate entered the race in November, and while we sent the same letter, it had a later deadline.)
As of November 22, we have received responses from five of the eight candidates. This grid includes a summary of the answers we received, and you can read their full responses at the links within the grid.
Letter from SUMA to provincial leadership candidates
Dear Leadership Candidate:
Saskatchewan hometowns are on the front lines of the province’s growing economy — we provide the foundation for the growth our province has been experiencing over the last decade. Our cities, towns, villages, resort villages, and northern municipalities provide core services that are essential to our quality of life.
These include the infrastructure and services we rely on and use every day:
- safe drinking water;
- wastewater management;
- streets and bridges;
- police and fire services;
- snow clearing;
- public transit;
- recreation, arts and culture facilities and programming;
- economic and community development; and
- garbage and recycling collection and processing.
The success of Saskatchewan is inextricably linked to the success of our hometowns. When our urban municipalities do well, so does the province. The Government of Saskatchewan has a vested interest in hometowns that are great places to work, live, and play.
Over the last 11 years, Saskatchewan has experienced enormous economic and population growth, the majority of which can be attributed to growth in our hometowns. We have welcomed 195,768 people to Saskatchewan, and incorporated three new cities, each with at least 5,000 residents: Martensville, Meadow Lake, and Warman—the last of which has been deemed the fastest growing city in Canada. Many of those moving to our province have also taken up residence in our two largest cities, Saskatoon and Regina, both of which are also growing faster than the urban average across Canada, according to a 2016 Statistics Canada report.
With this growth comes an increasing demand on municipal services, existing municipal infrastructure, and the need for new infrastructure to meet the demands of this growth. Meeting these demands can be a challenge for hometowns.
Municipalities only collect about eight cents of every tax dollar and have a limited ability to bring in revenue beyond property taxes. Municipalities are also bound by legislation to run a balanced operating budget. As a result, municipalities alone cannot support the incredible growth in their communities and rely on the province to broaden their revenue base.
Both municipal revenue sharing and infrastructure funding give municipalities access to another form of revenue. This support from the provincial government helps provide the services and infrastructure vital to growing the economy and keeping up with that growth; and supports Saskatchewan’s economic, environmental, cultural, and social quality of life goals.
We value the partnership that we’ve developed with the provincial government. This collaborative relationship has resulted in provincial funding that supports municipal operational and capital expenditures. But there is still much work to do.
We want to continue being partners in the future of Saskatchewan. To do that, we need a commitment to permanence when it comes to both municipal revenue sharing and infrastructure funding, as well as a strong, collaborative consultation process to ensure that municipalities and the province are working together and making informed decisions. SUMA has been asking for a formalized consultation protocol for years that could alleviate many of the surprises and reactions that otherwise occur when unexpected programming and policy changes are made.
SUMA is asking all leadership candidates to take the time to respond to the following questions. Your answers will be shared with our membership.
- Do you support one point of all PST revenues being dedicated to municipal revenue sharing? Why or why not? How will you ensure this program remains a permanent funding program for municipalities?
- Do you support a made-in-Saskatchewan infrastructure program for our hometowns, beyond the federal cost sharing programs currently in place? Why or why not?
- Do you support a formalized consultation protocol between the Government of Saskatchewan and SUMA? Why or why not?
- Do you support hometowns having access to additional revenue sources such as additional taxing authority beyond property tax? Why or why not?
- How will you support municipal leadership on dealing with climate change?
- In most cases, SaskPower and SaskEnergy do not provide any compensation to municipalities for municipal services provided, such as emergency services and road infrastructure—all of which private sector companies pay for. How would you deal with this disparity, both in terms of buildings within municipalities and for underground infrastructure?
- At what level of funding, and in which funding pools, do you support the province participating in Phase II of the federal infrastructure program? Why?
I look forward to hearing back from you regarding your commitment to Saskatchewan’s hometowns and to working with you in the future. Please provide a response by November 17, 2017.
Gordon Barnhart, C.M., S.O.M., Ph.D
Responses from candidates
Ken Cheveldayoff (Saskatchewan Party leadership)
Alanna Koch (Saskatchewan Party leadership)
Ryan Meili (Saskatchewan NDP leadership)
Trent Wotherspoon (Saskatchewan NDP leadership)
Gord Wyant (Saskatchewan Party leadership)