National Newswatch

REGINA — Saskatchewan's Opposition says the government needs to share more of the wealth coming in from oil prices that continue to surge above what was forecast in the budget.

The NDP is urging the Saskatchewan Party government to raise royalty rates by one per cent when benchmark oil prices exceed US$90 a barrel.

Finance critic Trent Wotherspoon says that increase — along with a similar one on higher potash prices — would add $250 million to provincial coffers this year alone.

"A single per cent increase ... when our resource sectors are in windfall is a modest measure," Wotherspoon said Monday.

"It will allow these important sectors to be profitable and to be strong, and (the government) to continue to invest."

Saskatchewan's 2022-23 budget was calculated on oil prices of US$79 a barrel. The price of benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil closed at US$105 on Monday. 

Premier Scott Moe said balancing the budget could be possible within a year if resource revenues remain over his government's projections.

"One would hope, but there's been a lot of variability over the last two years," said Moe, who added that the government's priority remains getting rid of its $463-million deficit.

"If we should get there in the months ahead, we're always looking for opportunities where we can support Saskatchewan families, and we'll see what lies ahead in the next number of months in terms of natural resource revenue."

Wotherspoon said it's only fair to give to families some of the unexpected rise in resource revenues brought on by supply chain issues, inflation and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

He said the extra charge would enable the government to send people a cheque to offset inflation and an increased cost of living.

It would also allow the government to cancel an expansion of the provincial sales tax this fall and free up money to invest in renewable projects, he said. 

"This is about how we deliver a fair deal back to Saskatchewan people," Wotherspoon said.

Moe and his government did not entertain the NDP's proposal.

"It kills jobs," Moe said. 

"Ultimately, when we're talking about affordability in this province, the best way to address that affordability is to have a job and the opportunity to further that career," he said.

He said a royalty increase would result in less investment in the province and fewer jobs. 

The charge is currently three per cent for coal, potash, uranium and natural gas. Companies owning oil wells pay either 1.7 per cent or three per cent, depending on whether the wells were completed before or after October 2002.

Moe also hinted that his government is considering soon raising the minimum wage soon to the rise in inflation, but he provided few details.

"Those conversations are happening today with business leaders and folks working in those industries to ensure we're not instilling an undue impact on our business community," he said.

Saskatchewan's minimum wage rate is the lowest in Canada at $11.81 an hour. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2022.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press
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