Nicole Rancourt, NDP MLA for Prince Albert Northcote, said the budget tabled today was “shortsighted and offers no long term plans to invest in prosperity.”
Rancourt said there were no specific mentions of Prince Albert, and was disappointed by the lack of details on how $11.4 million for mental health initiatives will be distributed.
"We have a suicide crisis happening in our province, and that wasn't even addressed within this budget, and I thought that was really shortsighted,” she said. “I was hoping we would see some real investments in services. I was hoping our mobile crisis would see extra funding, and other community-based organizations.
Despite her criticisms, Rancourt said there was some good news in the budget. She was pleased HIV medication will now be 100 per cent covered by the province.
"I definitely have to say that is a good news portion of the budget. We have been advocating hard for that because we know we have some of the highest rates of HIV in the country, and we have individuals who may not be able to afford that medication,” she said. “It’s nice to see that was addressed."
The City of Prince Albert's municipal revenue share dropped to $6.33 million, from $6.7 million last year. Rancourt said once again the government is relying on municipalities to pay for their mismanagement.
Chamber happy about lack of cuts
The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce labelled the budget "good news on many fronts for municipalities including Prince Albert and area," mainly because it features no new cuts.
CEO Steve McLellan said last year's cuts were not being replaced, but was glad there were no further cuts at Sask Polytech and there was more money found in the budget for education. He said municipalities were “being treated fairly this year.”
He added he was shocked to see no rise in the PST, which will remain at 6 per cent.
“We didn’t think they could get to their targeted measure of zero deficit without doing that,” McLellan told paNOW. “We’re shocked and pleasantly surprised.”
McLellan said there was money in the budget for highways improvements in the region, and the provincial funding for the Wollaston Lake winter road in the North was approved, though he noted the federal government had yet to sign off on their portion.
Local groups concerned about Saskatchewan Rental Supplement
Brian Howell, the manager with River Bank Development in Prince Albert, said the Saskatchewan Rental Supplement is a worthy program that helps a lot of low-income people get by. The province said Tuesday that a replacement support program is being developed in conjunction with the federal government, but is not expected to be implemented until 2020.
No new applications to the program will be accepted after July 1 of this year.
"The rental housing supplement has played an important role in reducing poverty in Saskatchewan and making life more bearable for lower-income families," Howell said. "Its absence over the two years, until the new program is brought into effect, will have a substantial effect on the lives of our most vulnerable citizens."
Linda Boyer, manager with Prince Albert Community Housing, agreed the phase-out of the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement will affect a number of low-income families and people with disabilities in the community.
"I'm hopeful that the federal government would have something to replace that, because if they don't it's going to affect many of our tenants who struggle to pay their rent as it is," she told paNOW. "There's supposed to be a federal program to replace it, so I remain hopeful that there will be something in place for July 1."
On Twitter: @PrinceAlbertNOW
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