City councillors took aim at PST charges on construction and other projects Monday night, while expressing discontent with a costly provincial program.
A report and request to retain the current contractor for the 2018 Landfill Environmental Monitoring Program was brought before council. The contractor performs tests to ensure that the city’s landfill is operating in compliance with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment’s Permit to Operate.
The city is required to have annual reporting and monitoring completed by a qualified professional. This includes sampling surface and groundwater, developing a 3D groundwater model for the landfill, monitoring leachate containment, and ensuring negative environmental impacts, if any, are controlled and corrected.
It, however, comes with a cost of $195,206 plus PST. Over $90,000 in work items from 2016 and 2017 are also being carried forward this year, pertaining to the development of a multi-year groundwater model and pumping test investigation. This money was not spent in those years. The funds for the remainder of the program were budget for in 2018. The city cannot perform the testing in-house at this time as it requires a certified laboratory.
A few items were discussed with the ministry in 2017, and again this year, to increase the efficiency of the monitoring program and possibly reduce the program’s cost in the future. The ministry showed a willingness to cooperate, according to agenda documents, subject to the city providing scientific justifications. Gathering that information will be part of this year's studies.
Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody shared a few of his thoughts on the program, calling the cost “atrocious” and added he was bothered with the city being charged provincial sales tax on the project.
“$1,970 [in PST] for this. That is absolutely absurd,” he said, pointing to other construction projects, like the new water reservoir, where the city is forced to pay over $700,000 in PST it cannot recoup.
“That does not make any sense at all. I think the time has come where … we need to take issue with this. This is harming our community, without any question,” he said.
Cody went on to express further grievances with the project as a whole, believing the city to be over-regulated on these types of budget items.
Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski seconded Cody’s comments and said the worst part about the city paying PST is the inability to claim it back.
Mayor Greg Dionne agreed, saying it “has killed our construction industry" and stymied a number of private projects this year.
“Poof, it is gone. You don’t get anything in return,” he said. "I am shocked in these grants that we are not exempt. We can claim the GST back from the feds, but not the PST. I find that interesting.”
Dionne said going forward, the city is going to add the cost of PST onto their grant applications in the hopes to recoup some of the additional costs.
"If you say we are splitting a project one-third, one-third, one-third, that includes PST," he added.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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