$500 checks and a scuffle over water tests mark a turbulent week for Saskatchewan. government

The Saskatchewan government is back from summer vacation, handing out cash with one hand while waving at the federal government with the other.

Premier Scott Moe announced Monday night on social media that adults in the province would receive a check for $500.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer provided the fine print during the province’s first-quarter financial update on Tuesday, saying people 18 and older who have filed taxes will receive a check through the position in November, at a total cost to the province of $450 million.

The update also featured something that hadn’t been seen in Saskatchewan for nearly a decade: a budget surplus.

Overall government revenues are expected to exceed $2 billion, largely due to a $1.86 billion increase in non-renewable resource revenues. Tax revenues are also expected to increase by $536.5 million.

Harpauer said Tuesday that the war in Ukraine has played a role in boosting the province’s revenue.

« We didn’t create the war and yes, we benefit from it, our products do. We’re not the only jurisdiction that is. »

Harpauer and Moe had hinted for some time that the government had a plan for any revenue increases spurred by high commodity prices. The government has agreed on $500 checks, excluding gym and fitness memberships and some other recreational activities from the PST expansion scheduled for October 1 , and kept the temporary zero percent small business tax cut in place.

In May, the province’s opposition demanded $105 checks to all residents and a 1% fee hike, which it said would generate $250 million in revenue. Moe said the latter « kills jobs ».

This week, Opposition Leader Carla Beck criticized the decision not to invest the revenues in health care.

« The choice to put a billion in government coffers, with nothing for health care, is a mistake. You don’t pay the mortgage when the roof is about to collapse, » Beck said Thursday.

When asked why the government hasn’t provided funds to help the health care system, Harpauer said, « Every budget we’ve increased health spending. But if we use $450 million, say, just on the price of oil, and then the price of oil goes down, where are we going to get that $450 million next year? »

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan Nurses Union sounded the alarm by posting on social media that The Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon was « over 200% capacity » on Wednesday.

“Ninety awaiting care with only 31 places,” the union wrote on Twitter. « Nine of Saskatoon’s 15 ambulances stuck with patients waiting for places, patients in hallways, being treated in ambulance bays and waiting rooms…you can’t tell us that urban emergencies don’t happen. are not collapsed. »

The opposition also called on the government to use the $62 million it received earlier this year from the federal government. The province’s financial update indicates that the full amount was not used.

water tester

On Sunday, Saskatchewan Water Security Minister Jeremy Cockrill posted a two-page letter on social media accusing federal government employees of intruding on three communities.

Cockrill called it « secret testing » and said producers at Pense, Pilot Butte and Mossbank reported that government workers had broken in to test the water in the ditches.

« When approached by growers, these employees indicated that they were testing the water for pesticide/nitrate levels, » Cockrill wrote.

The federal government said it was aware of an Aug. 11 incident in which federal scientists were conducting tests near a highway in Pense and were told they were on private land.

Two days before Cockrill’s letter – and eight days after the alleged intrusion – Levi Wood, former president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, posted on Twitter a photo of two people outside a government vehicle. Canada.

The following day, the Saskatchewan cabinet approved an order in council fine-tuning provincial trespassing laws, the trespassing on property act 2022« to add a new section to the Act and to state that ‘person’ includes the Crown in right of Canada. »

Cockrill published his letter the following day.

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault sent his own letter Wednesday, hitting back at Cockrill and accusing the province of engaging in speculation and misinformation.

“I believe we, and Canadians, are best served when we engage with facts — not impassioned, misinformed rhetoric,” Guilbeault wrote.

He denied that scientists were testing for nitrates or nutrients from farm runoff.

“Media claims about this incident compound other recent misinformation regarding the voluntary nature of fertilizer emission reduction targets, misrepresenting voluntary, unregulated work done in partnership with Canadian farmers. to reduce emissions, not fertilizer use,” he said. wrote.

Guilbeault said the federal government would suspend its collection of samples in the province, referring to the Order-in-Council amendment to the Trespass Act.

“Federal officials look forward to working with Saskatchewan officials to better understand the recent changes to the Executive Order rules, so that the important work of scientific analysis of water data can continue,” he said. -he writes.

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says the Saskatchewan government is misrepresenting the work of federal scientists who test water in the province. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

On Thursday, Cockrill said the province is still seeking more information from the federal government and those concerned about any incidents should contact Saskatchewan’s public safety agency.

« We still don’t have a clear answer on exactly what they were looking for. We have been advised that these are routine tests, but certainly the feds could be more specific would be helpful for both us as the provincial government and the Water Safety Agency, but also for our growers across the province.”

The federal government said it had no details of the trespassing allegations made by the province at Mossbank and Pilot Butte. The province has provided no evidence to support its claims.


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