The Government of Saskatchewan is yet again facing calls to suspend the provincial gas tax. The official opposition says the move would save drivers 15 cents per litre.
The Saskatchewan NDP officially filed its motion Tuesday – demanding the province pause the tax for a period of six months. The opposition says the move would lead to $350 in savings for the average driver over that period.
“The number one issue for people across the province right now is a cost of living and those concerns are only going to increase as we move towards Christmas,” Leader Carla Beck told reporters.
“This is something the Premier could do. It is solely within his jurisdiction … and I think frankly, is something that many Saskatchewan people are desperate for.”
Premier Scott Moe defended the government’s position during question period – citing low utility costs in Saskatchewan.
“Through our crown utilities is offering the second lowest bundle of utility rates in the nation,” he said. “We’re under the NDP B.C. by $700 for a family of four, under Quebec by $1,300, under Ontario by $3700.”
Originally established in the early 1990’s – Saskatchewan’s gas tax is currently responsible for around $500 million in government revenue. Funding which is used to repair and maintain Saskatchewan roads.
“It has been consistent that gas tax has been available then to fix roads across the province,” Moe told reporters.
“Thats why we had done some type of a mirroring tax on electric vehicles as they were introduced so that we have a revenue source to invest in our provincial highway system.”
In his comments, Moe described the consumer based federal carbon tax as “unnecessary” and attributed the current cost of living concerns to it – while defending the need for the gas tax.
“It ultimately is adding to the inflationary costs that families are hearing or feeling when theyre buying groceries, when theyre filling their vehicle, whatever that might be,” he explained.
That’s the tax that’s most certainly unnecessary. The discussion around collecting a gas tax and using those dollars and then adding dollars to that pot to invest in our provincial highway system can be a discussion as well.”
“But ultimately that money would have to come from somewhere,” he added.
The Premier plans to introduce legislation that the province says would enable Saskatchewan to stop collecting and remitting the carbon tax on natural gas for home heating.
“My understanding, on average about $400 a year,” he said, referencing what the province claims the move would save residents.
“So it is a significant amount for many families across the province.”
Beck says the opposition agrees with the government on the topic of the federal carbon tax. However, they believe the government should act on both taxes to relieve stress on consumers.
“The difference between these two things and both can happen and I think should happen – one the premier has the ability to ensure happens today,” she explained. “The other one is going to require working with the provinces and making that case with the federal government.”
In its motion, the Sask. NDP pointed out numerous examples of provinces across the country pausing gas taxes.
“This is a very considered measure,” Beck added. “A measure that weve seen Alberta take on, Ontario and Manitoba. The call is for a six month pause, I would hope – I think we all hope that people would be in a better financial position in six months.”
Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador have already delivered gas-tax relief. Ontario extended its relief to June 30, 2024 –while Manitoba’s measure will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.