It's been more than week since the provincial budget was released and SUMA been hard at work to defend our urban municipalities.
While emergency council meetings have been taking place across the province, SUMA has continued to ask for clarification on the cuts to the payments in lieu. We are still looking for the answers needed to fully understand the scope of the elimination; however, we have been able to confirm a few points:
- In some cases, this move will result in funding decreases equivalent to 40 to 50 per cent of this year's municipal revenue sharing.
- Unlike the fluctuating nature of municipal revenue sharing, eliminating payments in lieu is permanent, leaving municipalities scrambling to make up this shortfall every year.
- Over the next 10 years, this would amount to nearly $400 million in lost funding.
Over the last week, we have launched a
full-scale initiative to combat the downloads and funding cuts in this budget. The provincial government has pointed to reserve funds as the answer to covering the $36 million shortfall. This is simply not an option and we have worked to
combat this notion by talking about what reserve funds are actually for: catastrophic emergencies such as massive snowstorms and major water main breaks, and to protect your ability to borrow for major infrastructure projects.
The provincial government likes to point out the significant increases to municipal revenue since 2007. But the last 10 years also saw the largest percentage increase in Saskatchewan's population growth since the 1930s: 16 per cent (or 163,000 people). Municipal revenue sharing has been crucial to ensuring Saskatchewan's hometowns could keep pace during this decade of unprecedented growth.
SUMA CEO Laurent Mougeot and several other SUMA members have also been sharing our message on TV, radio, print and online. I want to thank everyone for their contributions and for ensuring the ramifications of this budget stay front and centre.
Our message has not gone unnoticed by the provincial government. Along with SUMA Vice-President of Cities Bob Maloney, Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark, I attended a meeting yesterday afternoon with ministers Harpauer, Hargrave, Wyant, and Doherty. We reiterated our stance that denying payments in lieu to our members is the wrong decision and it should be rescinded.
We have opened an important line of dialogue with the province. Now more than ever it is crucial that we band together and speak with a unified voice.
SUMA staff has put together a
hub page on our website
dedicated to keeping you up to date on our progress, and providing you with information and tools. We will be adding more content, including template letters, but the page already includes information such as:
- an FAQ sheet;
- background information;
- key messages; and
- a media archive.
Now is a good time to get involved on social media. We will be using these channels to amplify our voice and keep you up to date in real time. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to share and re-tweet our content. Your help will ensure we continue to get our message out as far and wide as possible and raise awareness of how crucial this funding is and the importance of a provincial government that supports Saskatchewan hometowns. Follow us on Facebook
We urge you to share our message and use your own channels and platforms. Please tag SUMA and use hashtags where possible. We suggest #skbudget and #skpoli.
We want to amplify your voice during this challenging time to raise awareness of the critical role of Saskatchewan's hometowns, and the long-term, reliable support from the provincial government we need and rely upon.
Defending and representing your interests is a huge part of SUMA's work, but we couldn't do it without your input. You know the issues facing your municipality and we want to hear local examples of what these cuts mean to you and your residents. We are actively monitoring media, but we always encourage you to send us copies of your press releases and links to any local media articles supporting our cause.
Saskatchewan's hometowns are on the front lines of growth, building and maintaining infrastructure, creating and expanding programs, and providing the essential services we all rely on every day. Our cities, towns, villages, resort villages, and northern communities are where people live, work, and play. Hometowns are key to the quality of life we expect and deserve in Saskatchewan.
We will not back down. We are dedicated to defending our members and we will continue to take the steps necessary to ensure our Saskatchewan urban municipalities remain strong.