Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe calls 2018 federal budget ‘vague’

Click to play video: 'How does the 2018 federal budget affect Saskatchewan?' How does the 2018 federal budget affect Saskatchewan?
WATCH ABOVE: The federal government has tabled it 2018 budget, with a focus in part on gender equality and a pharmacare plan. Ryan Kessler looks at how it will affect Saskatchewan – Feb 27, 2018

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is calling for more clarification after reviewing what he says is a “vague” 2018 federal budget.

“You’ll have a five-year funding envelops, we’re not certain how much is, first of all, available to the province of Saskatchewan, what year that would be available for, and exactly how that would be administered and how we would be able to access it on behalf of the people of this province.”

The federal budget includes $21.5 billion in new spending and an $18.1 billion deficit.

READ MORE: Trudeau government reveals the 2018 federal budget

Moe said he was pleased to see no changes in transfers to the province. He also applauded the federal government for investing $80 million in training RCMP cadets, as well as funding for water infrastructure in indigenous communities and funding for child and family care services.

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The premier also said he’d be closely watching the national pharmacare plan.

“This discussion has been ongoing for a number of years at the national level, it is something that has never been able to progress due to the financials of it and the cost, quite honestly,” Moe said.

“We have one of the most comprehensive plans in Saskatchewan relative to anywhere else in the nation, we’re proud of that, we’ll be paying attention to the national pharmacare program as we move forward to see if it does progress.”

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said the federal budget will have no impact on Saskatchewan’s upcoming budget.

“As far as our budget is concerned, very much the federal government was status quo, so I do not have to go back and sharpen my pencil and change our budget in any way,” Harpauer said, who also added that the federal budget is vague.

Saskatchewan is also losing $62 million for not signing on to the Pan-Canadian Climate Change agreement. Moe said he will not be pressured into putting a price on carbon.

“The goal is to drive emissions down, the goal is not to tax our industries and ensure that they are uncompetitive like industries in the U.S.,” Moe said.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan to lose $62.5 million if climate agreement is not signed

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It’s a move heavily criticized by the opposition.

“The part we’re the most concerned about is the $62 million that the Sask. Party are essentially walking away from,” interim NDP Leader Nicole Sarauer said. “All they’re really doing for us is losing us $62 million and getting us a federally imposed carbon tax.”

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said there were no surprises in the federal budget, but he’s waiting for the implementation details for infrastructure funding.

“We need an agreement with the provincial government on the rollout of the infrastructure money that’s coming from the federal government,” Clark said.

The federal government fell short on social housing funding, according to Clark, who along with other mayors met with federal ministers earlier this month and pushed for more funding for repairs to social housing.

“Because there’s a big backlog of repairs … could help to generate some economic activity and improve housing,” Clark said.

Clark welcomed $231.4 million over five years for addressing the opioid crisis, of which $150 million is one-time emergency investment for improving access to treatment programs.

READ MORE: Budget 2018 outlines how cannabis will be taxed, grants money to fight opioid crisis

The budget also revealed more information on taxation of legal marijuana, which Clark also considered a “good sign,” though he stated “the devil will be in the details.”

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Saskatchewan should see benefits from federal commitments to further scientific research, according to Greg Poelzer, a political scientist at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

“This is going to help both the university and our province,” Poelzer said, citing the Canadian Light Source and VIDO-InterVac as examples of ways the U of S could see funding injected.

Indigenous people in Saskatchewan will also benefit from boosted federal funding for family and child services, education and training and clean water initiatives.

“We’ve seen a lot of very sad stories about water issues on First Nations communities and so the increased investment the federal government is going to make is only going to help a province like Saskatchewan,” Poelzer said.

He also noted how provisions to offset tariffs on softwood lumber will help Saskatchewan.

“In Saskatchewan, 30 per cent of the workforce in the forestry sector is Aboriginal, so not only is it important to our province, but it’s very important to our Indigenous communities,” Poelzer said.

While Canada left its approach to corporate taxation unchanged, Poelzer said it’s not a sustainable position because of the recent overhaul to the corporate tax regime in the United States.

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