A number of questions at the SUMA Bear Pit session Wednesday focused on the province’s growing deficit and how the government plans to balance the budget later this year.
Premier Brad Wall revealed earlier this week the budget deficit had grown to 1-point-2 billion dollars, and his government was committed to balancing the budget.
Wednesday, Premier Wall repeated his message “everything is on the table,” including tax increases and even job cuts.
Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said the province, while needing to control the deficit, can not take the knife to Regina and Saskatoon to much as Saskatchewan continues to become and urban province more and more.
On Thursday Wall met with Fougere and Regina city council to discuss the affects the provinces potential cuts could have on cities like Regina and Saskatoon, which are the third and fourth fastest growing cities in the nation according to the latest Census results.
Fougere said the meeting was a good exchange of ideas.
“We had the chance to discuss in detail what we believe are problems to try and achieve deficit reduction and what that means for municipalities and what that could mean for us,” Fougere said at a news conference Thursday. “We gave them some ideas om what they could do to lessen the impact or control their spending and reduce the deficit, it was a good exchange of ideas,” said Fougere.
One of the city’s major concerns was the five per-cent reduction in revenue sharing the province talked about.
Fougere also said that Thursday’s discussion was able to have a more local focus than the discussions at the SUMA Convention.
Interim President of SUMA Randy Goulden says it’s critical to continue to fund urban municipalities, not just now but into the future.
“Our municipalities have been here for the long-term,” said Goulden. “So we need to have government understand we need this funding. We need to be able to grow our communities.”
One person asked the provincial government if they would consider a wage freeze for the upcoming budget.
Premier Wall didn’t completely commit, but said “what we ask of the public sector, we will first do ourselves”.