REGINA — The main focus at the legislative assembly Monday was on a plan announced that day by the opposition New Democrats for resource revenue distribution.
In speaking to reporters Monday, Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon stood alongside Opposition Leader Ryan Meili and called for a windfall profits surcharge of an extra one per cent to be added on the provincial resource surcharge.
The governing Sask. Party has promptly slammed the proposal, with Premier Scott Moe dismissing the plan as a tax increase on the resource industry.
In announcing the plan, the NDP said it delivers a cost-of-living dividend to residents to address affordability and inflation issues.
"People are having a hard time making ends meet, affording the basics — fuel and food, being able to fill the tank and fill the grocery cart," said Meili.
"We can choose to care. We can choose to help, or we can ignore the troubles that people are going through. What we see right now with skyrocketing resource prices that are driving many of those challenges that people are facing is also an opportunity ... by taking a slightly larger percentage of those profits as a windfall for Saskatchewan people, we have an opportunity to invest. To immediately address the affordability crisis that people are facing, to invest in the generational challenge we are facing in health care, and invest in sustainable long-term solutions to help be part of addressing climate change," said Meili.
According to the opposition’s news release, the windfall profits surcharge would be applied when WTI (West Texas Intermediate) oil prices exceed $90(US) per barrel, and/or potash prices exceed $700(CDN) per K20 tonne.
Wotherspoon told the news conference that the surcharge would add $250 million of revenues to provincial coffers, saying it would "provide much needed relief to Saskatchewan people, the owners of our resources."
He said the revenue would provide for a $125 million rebate to Saskatchewan families, and allow the government to scrap their PST expansion.
Wotherspoon touted the plan in Question Period that afternoon, where he denounced the government for a lack of action.
“We're living in truly unprecedented times,” said Wotherspoon in the legislature. “As a result of Putin’s unforgivable invasion of Ukraine, already high resource prices have been sent soaring. Meanwhile, the cost of living has been sent sky high for Saskatchewan people. Faced with this, that government has done nothing new to support families across the province struggling to make ends meet. No fuel tax relief, no break on power bill hikes. Nothing new to address record inflation.”
Wotherspoon also pointed to the expansion of the PST on Rider games, concerts and gym memberships. “Why hasn’t the government provided a stitch of new relief for Saskatchewan families in light of the crushing cost of living that they face?”
Premier Moe responded by strongly denouncing the NDP's proposal as “increasing taxes … on our natural resource based industries in the province.”
Moe noted the government was always looking at options to make life more affordable, saying his government was looking at a market-based adjustment to the minimum wage, which would go above and beyond the current formula.
“Here’s what we won’t do. We won’t be increasing the taxes on those wealth generating industries in our province, those industries that are employing people, providing jobs for Saskatchewan people.”
Wotherspoon reacted by repeating the NDP’s familiar slogan as of late of “I don’t care.”
“‘I don’t care’… it’s clear that that attitude pervades the government these days." Wotherspoon then pointed to gas prices of "over a $1.70 at the pumps, people breaking the bank just to fill the tank. And he dismisses this.”
Moe shot back that what they saw that morning was “a rehashing of what the NDP have been saying for years.” Moe also pointed to the leadership changes of the NDP over the years, making the point that the message from them was no different.
“If we go back to the 2011 election we have another Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Dwain Lingenfelter, who said, and I quote ‘maybe we can just squeeze a little more than a nickel and a dollar out of the Potash Corporation and do some of the things that the people of this province want’ … The leader changes, the leader changes, same old NDP.”