Tax cuts. Job losses. The loss of a Crown corporation.
It appeared there was lots to be emotional about in the province’s 2017-18 budget.
But for Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, it was the loss of grants in lieu that had him sounding off on the CJME Morning Show the day after the budget was announced.
He took issue with Finance Minister Kevin Doherty telling mayors to use their reserves to make up for the shortfall, which could be over $11 million for cities as big as Regina and Saskatoon.
“Frankly it’s not helpful when I hear the minister of finance say we could just cover this by using our reserves,” he told the CJME Morning Show. “I would simply say to him, we know how to run our government here. You take care of yours.”
It turns out Minister Doherty was listening and heard the message loud and clear.
“I heard the mayor earlier this morning on your radio show talking about the fact I should mind my own business and look after the province’s finances and I’ll fully accept that,” Doherty said later on the CJME Morning Show.
“But why should I have provincial taxpayers continue to borrow money and go deficit after deficit after deficit to keep them whole?”
Doherty also doubled down on the message that everyone – municipalities included – have to do their part, even if that means dipping into reserve funds.
“We’ve asked other partners, whether it’s universities or our school divisions, to use those reserves if they have them available to you in this very difficult, fiscal challenging time as we get through this,” he said.
“(Mayor Fougere) has other avenues available to him. He and his council can make difficult decisions like we did in the provincial government in dealing with a tough fiscal challenge.”
Fougere said he understands the situation the province is in.
“In the greater context of the budget, we understand we’re all being asked to carry the weight of this and I can understand and appreciate that.”
While Fougere and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark aren’t happy with the loss of the grants in lieu program, both agreed they were happy to see municipal revenue sharing intact.
— With files from the CJME Morning Show