The mayors of three Saskatchewan cities say a meeting Wednesday with provincial ministers was postivie.
Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark, Yorkton Mayor Bob Maloney and SUMA president Gordon Barnhart had a session with Donna Harpauer, the minister of government relations to discuss the end of 36-million dollars in grants-in-lieu from SaskPower and SaskEnergy.
Mayor Fougere says he respects the province is facing funding shortages, adding Saskatchewan cannot balance its books on the backs of its cities.
He says Regina has no intention of dipping into reserves in order to balance its budget.
“Our reserves are not meant for that purpose, “says Fougere. “They are meant for emergencies and infrastructure investment. They are not meant to fill deficits. It’s not sustainable. If this program, this cap, was on us for every year, three or four years from now we would drain our reserves and we would be having a much different conversation.”
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Saskatoon city council announced it was planning to pursue legal measures following the announcement of the loss of provincial grants.
Yorkton Mayor Bab Maloney says his city as well was asked if it would pursue any legal actions.
“Personally, I’ve always found with legal action, by the time everyone gets paid, you don’t gain much,” said Maloney. “When things are being changed, you have to stand up for your community, stand up for your ratepayers. You don’t discount it. Given the talk we’ve had today, if you were to ask if I am more optimistic? Then, yes I am.”
Donna Harpauer, the minister of government relations, says while she understands the frustrations municipalities are experiencing, she says there’s got to be some give-and-take during this tight financial process.
“What I did say. for the cities, for this particular budget – because their fiscal year is different from the province’s fiscal year – it means they have to find about 8-million in a 400-million dollar operating budget,” says Harpauer. “Can they find efficiencies within their operation.”
Fougere says he is hopeful there will be more conversations similar to this as the government looks at future options.
SUMA president Gordon Barnhart says they had a good conversation, but more meetings are needed.