Recently Ryan launched A Vision for Saskatchewan, the first major policy document of his campaign, which outlined bold steps toward a stronger, more prosperous Saskatchewan. While some of these steps, such as the Choosing Wisely approach to health care, would bring immediate savings, it also includes commitments to restore or increase funding in key areas. Here are a few of the key principles behind the plan to finance Ryan’s vision.
1. Thinking Ahead. A healthy, educated population in Saskatchewan means stronger growth, safer communities, and better health, resulting in lower costs in areas such as policing and healthcare. Smart investments in Saskatchewan people will save money in ways that will free up the revenue necessary to build a better Saskatchewan. A Meili NDP government will make careful choices based on available funds, working alongside economists and policy experts to identify the investments with the greatest economic and social return. Ryan will make those investments his first priority, using the benefits generated to fund further improvements.
2. Smart Financing. When we build a school or a bridge, we don’t pay for it all at once. Instead, we access the preferential interest rates available to governments to spread the cost over many years, in recognition that the benefits are also spread over many years. When it comes to social investments, however, all of the costs of a social program are borne in the year they are incurred. Being able to spread those high-impact, early intervention investments over a reasonable time period would allow a Meili government to make the right choices now, rather than putting those crucial investments off indefinitely as the Sask Party has, leaving us to shoulder the costs of their inaction. Working with economists, the Saskatchewan civil service and the Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) to allow for the amortization of certain social investments via responsible borrowing is the antidote to austerity budgeting and short-term thinking and the key to future growth and prosperity. Any change in accounting methods would be in accordance with PSAB rules. (For more on this idea, see the Globe and Mail op ed Ryan co-authored on the topic, "Accounting rules need to allow the amortization of social investments," August 12, 2016.)
3. A Better Deal. A tremendous amount of wealth is generated in Saskatchewan through its natural resources. Ryan recognizes that the bounty from which that wealth is created belongs to everyone in the province, and that an appropriate portion of the profits should be reinvested for future success. One of Ryan’s first acts as premier of Saskatchewan will be to commission an expert review of the province’s taxation and resource revenue structures, with an eye to guaranteeing that Saskatchewan people are receiving an appropriate portion of the wealth generated, including a careful assessment of the impacts of any change on each industry and business model. It would also factor in the potential returns from new sources of revenue such as marijuana legalization.
4. Finding Balance. Collecting enough tax revenue for Saskatchewan people while not impeding beneficial economic activity requires the right balance. The Sask Party has lost all sense of that balance, choosing to cut $65 million in corporate taxes at the same time as they cut key services for Saskatchewan people, despite no evidence that our tax rates are uncompetitive or that deeper cuts would stimulate the economy. An essential step in ensuring the Government of Saskatchewan has the funds we need to invest in social and physical infrastructure includes an immediate return to the corporate tax rates preceding the 2017 budget.
The Sask Party is thinking only weeks and months ahead when we need them to be thinking years and decades ahead. They cut deeply in their 2017-18 budget to cover their mismanagement in ways that will only make next year’s fiscal outlook even worse. This hurts Saskatchewan people in both the short and long term, and weakens economic recovery. The evidence is clear: investments in infrastructure, housing, health and education boost economic growth, and government cuts only worsen the situation. Further, when people are well supported, they are better equipped to weather a struggling economy. A Meili government will identify the early interventions and key investments in the people of Saskatchewan that the provincial government can and should make now to ensure robust and stable long-term prosperity.
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