The Saskatchewan government, in its 2022-23 budget unveiled Wednesday, is promising new funding for health care and schools.
In order to pay for the funding initiatives, the provincial government is adding the provincial sales tax (PST) to admission and entertainment charges, which will come into effect Oct. 1, 2022.
That means things like Saskatchewan Roughrider games, concert tickets and curling membership fees at for-profit curling rinks will become six per cent more expensive.
“If I said to a Saskatchewan resident… would you be willing to pay this for the two concerts and the Rider ticket in order for us to address the very critical surgical wait-list,” said Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, “because we all know someone, if we’re not that someone, we know someone in our family that their quality of life isn’t what it should be because they need a knee or hip replacement – I think Saskatchewan people would support that.”
Budget documents show the government expects the new revenue will amount to $10.5 million in 2022-23 and $21 million in subsequent years — nearly matching the amount the government has pledged towards reducing surgical wait times.
The increase will also apply to things like green fees, rodeos and gym memberships.
Harpauer emphasized the new measure will not apply to small-town, local events.
“If it is a for-profit and they are charging GST, they will now charge PST,” said Harpauer. “If it is a community that is having a little bonspiel, they would not be charging GST and they will not be charging PST.”
Harpauer says there was no consultation with groups that will have to charge the sales tax.
The CEO of TCU Place in Saskatoon, specifying she heard about it for the first time on Wednesday, told Global News she understands why the PST will be implemented on sporting and entertainment events. But she said she was worried about how it may impact the industry that has just started recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From a consumer and business standpoint, it’s not the best news,” Tammy Sweeney said. “When this comes into effect in October, we will be the only western province that will be charging PST on these events … that puts us in a bit of a disadvantage for shows that are choosing to go into.”
Sweeney said when promoters and agents are planning a tour and choosing which cities to go into, they base their decision on things like the number of people the venues can attract to the show.
“They may skip over (Saskatchewan) and go to other cities and other provinces (with the PST in place),” she said. “That means our businesses that all benefit from us having shows here … are all potentially impacted.”
In a statement, Saskatchewan Roughriders communications director Arielle Zerr said the organization was surprised to learn about the PST addition – even though Harpauer referenced the team specifically as an organization on which the tax would be applied.
“Sports, art and culture were some of the hardest hit industries by the pandemic over the past two years. As a not-for-profit sports team and despite rising inflation costs, we worked tirelessly to minimize the financial impact on our fans. Unfortunately, we know today’s decision will impact many in our community who are looking forward to coming together,” the statement read.
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Zerr said the Riders will be in touch with fans and season ticket holders in the future once the organization better understands the effects of the new tax.
Tim Reid, CEO of the Regina Association Exhibition Limited (REAL) also said the PST implementation was a surprise and also said the past two years have been tough for the industry, calling them “the darkest time the industry has ever faced.”
In a statement, he said REAL respects the provincial government’s stance in preparing a budget that responds to the pandemic.
He also said he hoped the money would return to the entertainment sector eventually – though Harpauer stated the amount matches the funds needed to help alleviate the backlog.
“There is currently a substantial infrastructure deficit in sport and entertainment facilities throughout Saskatchewan,” the statement said.
“We hope the revenue earned through the addition of the PST to admission and entertainment charges will help address this need and be reinvested.”
Saskatchewan NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said the provincial government is nickel-and-diming people when they need relief desperately.
“It just baffles me… instead of providing some relief, we have a government that’s sticking them with more taxes and more costs,” he said. “Sticking those costs on events that bring us together and to support the arts and allow us to celebrate … it just defies common sense.”
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairie Director says this is a “really disappointing budget” and that this the last thing taxpayers need.
“This is very disappointing for taxpayers. We’ve all been through a tough time (and) the cost of everything is going up,” said Todd MacKay. “Finally looking forward going to a Rider game and the tickets are going to cost more.
There will be PST exemptions for certain situations including school, university or minor league sports, amateur productions with unpaid participants and even audio books.
The province says it is expecting the revenue impact will be approximately $100,000 this year.