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NDP demands extension of $500 cheques to those under 18

Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer unimpressed by opposition’s latest demand and calls NDP “desperate just to criticize.”
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer speaks to reporters Nov. 8 about the latest NDP call to include children in the $500 cheques.

REGINA - With the province set to send out $500 Affordability Tax Credit cheques next week to those over age 18, the opposition New Democrats are now demanding a change to make those under 18 eligible as well. 

But the government made clear it was not impressed with the late call for changes to the planned $500 tax credit cheque rollout planned for next Monday, Nov. 14.

“It’s the NDP desperate just to criticize,” said Finance Minister Donna Harpauer in characterizing the NDP’s position.

The concerns were raised as members in the Legislature were set for second reading Tuesday afternoon of The Income Tax (Affordability) Amendment Act, 2022, a bill which would make the $500 payments law. The NDP criticism has been mainly focused on concerns that families with children would not be sharing equally in the relief going out.

“It’s a matter of fairness,” said Opposition Finance Critic Wotherspoon in speaking to reporters. He pointed to the costs of raising a family and said “Saskatchewan families are facing a crushing cost of living crisis.”

He noted “it isn’t fair and isn’t right” that two cheques would be sent to a couple without children, but only one cheque would be sent to a parent or grandparent with children. Wotherspoon also made it known he thought provincial revenues were available to accommodate the change.

During Question Period, Opposition Leader Carla Beck pushed to extend eligibility to those under 18. She pointed out that with the $500 cheque rollout, “many will see no relief at all, including every child in this province.”

“Does the Premier actually think that a household with two adults deserves more support than a single parent with three children?”

Premier Scott Moe replied “we’re very pleased with the strength of the Saskatchewan economy to be able to deliver the $500 tax affordability credit cheques to the residents of Saskatchewan.”

Premier Moe also pointed out the opposition had previously asked for a $105 affordability rebate. “It’s through the strength of the Saskatchewan economy that we’re able to deliver $500, in addition to paying down $1 billion of debt here in the province, further saving $50 million dollars for years into the future.”

Beck responded that 40 percent of food bank users are children, and one in four live in poverty.

“It makes absolutely no sense at all to exclude kids from the affordability cheques,” said Beck, who asked Premier Moe if he would commit to that relief for Saskatchewan families.

Moe instead reiterated the government would provide the $500 cheques to those over 18. 

“That is in addition to $2 billion that are provided each and every year in affordability relief to Saskatchewan people,” said Moe. The Premier also noted anyone who filed their income taxes in Saskatchewan “opens them up to a number of supports, both provincial and federal.”

In speaking to reporters, Harpauer was unimpressed by the NDP’s late call to extend eligibility to those under 18, noting she hadn’t seen an amendment to the government’s bill.

“ I think it’s a little late for them to come out and ask for a change when (Wotherspoon) knows the cheques are coming in very, very shortly. They had some time to come out with an alternative and they did not. But the interesting thing, the example that the NDP are giving, are a single mom and three children. And with the $500 that we are doing, it is still more than what that family would receive…under the NDP at $105 per person.”

As for why the decision was made to only send $500 cheques to those over age 18, Harpauer reiterated it was easier to make an expedient payment by using adults and the tax system. 

Harpauer also told reporters children were addressed in other programs such as the Children’s Drug Plan and the active families benefit, and the “highest tax exemption for children in the country, quite frankly.”

Despite the Opposition’s latest concerns, the indication is there will not be a delay to the $500 cheques being sent out to residents over 18. Wotherspoon told reporters an order in council was issued weeks ago, so nothing would be delaying the dollars going out. 

Wotherspoon said their goal was “let’s improve this, let’s make sure it’s equitable, let’s make sure it doesn’t shut out kids and the cost of raising kids in Saskatchewan.”

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