Saskatchewan NDP calls on province to provide relief at the pumps

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Saskatchewan NDP calls on province to provide relief at the pumps
WATCH: Saskatchewan MLA’s are back at the legislature amid soaring costs, an ongoing pandemic and an escalating war in Europe. – Mar 8, 2022

The Opposition NDP is calling on the Saskatchewan Party government to provide relief for residents due to spiraling fuel prices.

Finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said the province needs to develop a gas price relief program due to current global economic uncertainty.

“These are extraordinary circumstances and the current increase at the pump is directly tied to the war in Ukraine and sanctions on the Russian government,” Wotherspoon said in a release Monday.

“These sanctions are crucial to continuing the pressure on Putin’s regime, but we must ensure already-stretched Saskatchewan families are protected where possible.”

Consumers pay 15 cents a litre on gasoline and diesel, nine cents a litre on propane and 1.5 cents on a litre of aviation fuel.

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Wotherspoon, noting a litre of gas cost 43 cents a litre more than it did on March 7, 2021, said he thinks it would be reasonable to find a way to temporarily bypass the entire amount.

“15 cents a litre, in this temporary time, I think it’s a very reasonable consideration to stay that entire amount, as are considerations of rebating those dollars in a very direct and urgent way to Saskatchewan people,” Wotherspoon said following question period Monday.

“We need to look at the tools that we have on this front.”

It would soften the impact of price increase at the pump, along with rising costs for food, clothing and other basic necessities, he said.

Saskatchewan has one of the highest sales taxes on fuel among the provinces.

Wotherspoon added the province budgeted West Texas Intermediate oil prices at $54.33 a barrel in the 2021-22 budget. It soared above $120 a barrel Monday.

“We are anticipating large increases to provincial revenue from our natural resource sectors but those increased revenues have not made it down to working families just trying to make ends meet at the end of the month,” Wotherspoon said.

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“That needs to change. Saskatchewan families need a break.”

On Monday, Alberta announced it would stop collecting the provincial fuel tax as of April 1, which would lower costs at the pump by 13 cents a litre.

The Alberta government also said it is introducing a $150 electricity rebate.

Premier Scott Moe was asked for his opinion on the idea.

“I would say it’s not under active consideration but there’s nothing that’s been removed from the table,” Moe said Monday.

He pointed out that unlike Alberta, which budgeted a surplus while projecting a $70 per barrel average over the upcoming year, Saskatchewan is still in a deficit position and that any increased revenues from higher commodity prices might be better used for reducing debt or building savings as opposed to absorbing lost tax revenue.

“Yes, we’re the beneficiary by providing providing jobs and attracting investment and providing opportunity in Saskatchewan, but as individuals we’re also paying more at the pumps and more at the grocery store,” Moe said.

“So we’re looking at what we can do to support Saskatchewan people understanding it’s their resource.. They own the resource.”

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Finance Minister Donna Harpauer is expected to table a provincial budget on March 23.

— with files from The Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'Russia’s invasion only partially fuelling sky-high gas prices'
Russia’s invasion only partially fuelling sky-high gas prices

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