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$500 affordability cheques still coming, province says

People are getting impatient waiting for the cheques, which were subject of a heated exchange in Question Period Thursday.
Donna Harpauer Aug. 23
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, seen during presention of the 2022 Q1 fiscal update at the radio room of the legislature on Aug. 23.

REGINA - Saskatchewan residents continue to impatiently wait for their $500 affordability cheques to arrive from the provincial government.

The indication from the province, as has been the case for some time, is that residents of Saskatchewan over age 18 can still expect to receive the $500 cheques sometime in November.

Full details on when and how that that will happen are still not yet announced, but the province reiterated their plans to issue the affordability relief during its Speech from the Throne to open the Legislature this week.

In that address delivered by Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty on Wednesday, the government included a pledge to introduce The Income Tax (Affordability) Act to provide for delivery of the $500 cheques to residents.

“Saskatchewan people should benefit when resource prices are high. That’s why my government announced a four-point affordability plan to:

• Deliver a $500 Saskatchewan Affordability Tax Credit cheque to everyone age 18 and older;

• Continue to exempt fitness and gym memberships and other activities from the Provincial Sales Tax;

• Extend the reduction of the small business tax rate; and

• Pay down up to $1 billion in operating debt, saving nearly $50 million a year in interest costs.

That’s growth that works for everyone. During this session, my government will introduce The Income Tax (Affordability) Act to provide for the delivery of the $500 affordability cheques to Saskatchewan people and extend the small business tax reduction.”

During the first Question Period of the session on Thursday, the opposition NDP hammered the Sask Party government for not issuing the relief cheques sooner. 

According to the account in Hansard, Opposition critic Trent Wotherspoon noted it had been “months since inflation and the war in Ukraine sent the cost of living through the roof for Saskatchewan families, all while sending revenues soaring for that government. 

“But this tired Sask Party government still hasn’t delivered affordability relief for families, denying them of the support they need and deserve. In fact beyond belief, they’ve made things worse by imposing new taxes, hiking fees, and cranking up the cost of power bills and energy bills in a massive way for Saskatchewan families. Why is this government failing Saskatchewan people? Why have they not delivered a single cent of affordability relief?"

Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer responded that “the member opposite knew that the government would look at whether or not resource revenues were going to hold and make an announcement at Q1 [first quarter], which we did. That includes the over $2 billion of measures that we have in each and every budget to address affordability for individuals and families within our province.

“Within that announcement, Mr. Speaker, along with a very large debt reduction which will reduce interest rates in years to come that can be spent on priorities that people want in this province — health care and education — we will be giving a $500 affordability tax credit to each and every individual in the province that is 18 or over. Mr. Speaker, that surpasses all of the measures that the NDP said that they would do.

“And what they were also going to do was increase the resource surcharge without consultation, quite frankly, with the industry. We believe that we are collecting taxes from the resource revenues, and it’s growth that works for everyone.”

“Those one-time dollars will be welcomed if and when they finally are received by Saskatchewan people,” Wotherspoon responded. 

“But the minister knows full well those dollars don’t come close to making up for the increased cost of living that families are facing. And those rebates, they don’t fairly support those that are raising children, excluding children on this front… How does this out-of-touch government defend waiting so long to get help out the doors to families who so desperately need and deserve it?”

Harpauer responded that the “$500 that we are making available to anyone in the province, 18 years or over, far surpasses the $105 that the NDP said that they would have for individuals. Mr. Speaker, the Crown corporations need to operate on a business case, and therefore those fees will not create a large increase — and the Crown corporation minister can speak further to that — annually. The $500 will more than cover that increase, Mr. Speaker.

“But again I will speak to the fact that we have over $2 billion in this budget, in next year’s budget, in budgets in the past and budgets in the future, to address affordability measures for individuals within our province.”

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