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Ottawa needs to improve fiscal stabilization for all provinces: Donna Harpauer

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer wants the $60 per capita limit on stabilization payments dropped and the qualifying threshold for non-resource revenues lowered as Canada's federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers prepare to meet in Ottawa.
Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer wants the $60 per capita limit on stabilization payments dropped and the qualifying threshold for non-resource revenues lowered as Canada's federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers prepare to meet in Ottawa. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer says improving fiscal stabilization for all provinces will be her focus as Canada’s finance ministers prepare to meet in Ottawa.

Harpauer said premiers recently reached a consensus that changes are needed to the equalization formula.

READ MORE: Equalization sparks western anger; 1 economist says that anger is a political tool

She wants the $60 per capita limit on stabilization payments dropped and the qualifying threshold for non-resource revenues lowered.

“Program funding is not sufficient for provinces that experience unexpected fiscal challenges, and the program needs to be more responsive to economic shocks and downturns,” Harpauer said Monday in a statement.

“Saskatchewan is calling on the federal government to make the necessary immediate improvements to fiscal stabilization.”

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Saskatchewan and some other provinces are angry at how federal assistance is calculated and are pushing for Ottawa to expand a federal program set up to help provinces that are dealing with a sudden economic downturn.

READ MORE: Premier Scott Moe says consensus issues take priority of his ‘new deal’ pitch

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau has agreed to discuss the matter during his meeting with provincial counterparts.

Harpauer wants the changes made retroactive to the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Also on the table for Harpauer is the mortgage stress test and health transfers.

“In Saskatchewan, the stress test has done more harm than good, preventing a disproportionate number of families from being able to afford a home,” Harpauer said.

She also wants the annual escalator for health transfer set at 5.2 per cent — a figure unanimously called for by the premiers and a level recommended by the Conference Board of Canada.

READ MORE: Provinces demand changes to fiscal stabilization program — here’s what that means

Harpauer also wants changes to the Investing in Canada Program and said she will ask the federal government to work directly with provinces to set infrastructure priorities and approve projects.

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“These changes would allow provinces to better target infrastructure spending to the areas of highest need and would help accelerate key projects,” Harpauer said.

Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers meet in Ottawa on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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With a file from The Canadian Press