Saskatchewan is flush with cash and out of the red.
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer says the province is raking in more money largely due to natural resource prices.
As a result, Harpauer says her Saskatchewan Party government is reversing its plan to add provincial sales tax to gym memberships and some recreational activities, which was to come into effect in October.
She says the province has enough money to balance the 2022-23 budget, which had a reported deficit of nearly $500 million in April.
The Saskatchewan Party government says it also has enough to return some of that money to residents through tax credits.
Saskatchewan is reporting a first-quarter surplus of over $1 billion for 2022-23 — $1.5 billion more than the province had in April when it tabled its budget.
$500 cheques for residents
On Monday, premier Scott Moe stated that his Saskatchewan Party government will be doling out $500 cheques to all residents 18 and older starting this fall.
In a message posted Monday on Twitter, Moe said residents should benefit when resource prices are high. He also announced that higher-than-expected oil prices have led to a balanced budget.
“Higher resource prices are driving our economy and they are creating thousands of new jobs. This has greatly improved our budget position from a deficit to a surplus,” Moe said in the video message.
“That’s good news, but it also means the cost of everything you buy has gone up. You own the resources and should benefit when those resource prices are high.”
Since March, Saskatchewan’s NDP Opposition has called on the government to offer financial relief for residents as they deal with inflation and higher cost of living.
In a statement, Opposition finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said the government should have offered the relief months ago like other provinces have. He also linked the announcement to an upcoming byelection that has yet to be called for Saskatoon Meewasin to replace former NDP leader Ryan Meili.
“While Saskatchewan families have been struggling with historic inflation rates, rising cost of living expenses and record gas prices, the Sask. Party sat on billions in windfall revenues,” Wotherspoon said.
“The Sask. Party will consistently put their political interests above the wellbeing of the people of Saskatchewan — as they have done with these `buy’-election bucks.”
Payments in other provinces
Several other provinces have issued one-time inflation-related payments to their residents:
- Quebec announced in its March budget it would issue $500 to every adult earning $100,000 or less.
- Also in March, Nova Scotia announced it would provide one-time $150 payments to those receiving assistance payments.
- British Columbia announced in March it would issue auto insurance rebates of $110. The process took several months, with the last cheques mailed out in early August.
- In June, New Brunswick issued an “emergency fuel and food benefit” of $225 to individuals and $450 to households receiving assistance payments.
- Prince Edward Island issued a one-time enhanced sales tax payment in July to low-income households.
- In the fall, Newfoundland and Labrador will issue a one-time payment to families earning below $150,000 to supplement the cost of furnace oil.