There's already a 'job killing' tax in Saskatchewan — and it's not the carbon tax

The Saskatchewan Party’s decision to apply provincial sales tax (PST) to the restaurant, construction and used car sales industries pose the same job-killing impacts Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe feverishly claims the carbon tax will bring to our province.

Hiked, expanded PST hypocritical, argues Saskatchewan writer

Premier Scott Moe is a hypocrite for rallying against a carbon tax despite his government hiking the PST and expanding it to other products and sectors, argues Chase Ruttig. (CBC)

Canada's federal carbon tax took effect on Jan. 1. The controversial measure has drawn ire from politicians and workers in Saskatchewan.

CBC Saskatchewan asked two people for their perspectives on the tax. Read the other, where a former Saskatchewan Party communications director explains how as an urban millennial he can still be against the tax, here.

The Saskatchewan Party's decision to apply provincial sales tax (PST) to the restaurant, construction and used car sales industries poses the same job-killing impacts Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe feverishly claims the carbon tax will bring to our province.

Moe and the Sask. Party hiked the PST to six per cent and expanded its reach last year, nabbing the government's coffers $971 million more in taxes in 2018 than two years ago.

Paying this hefty increase hurts the wallets of the same families, farmers and workers in the exact same way Moe and the yellow vest protesters say the carbon tax will.

A tax hike is a tax hike

When someone in Saskatchewan orders food from locally owned restaurants, or a construction worker starts up his truck for work in the morning, we are already feeling the pinch of a tax hike — except it is not from Justin Trudeau, it is from Scott Moe and the provincial government.

Applying a PST fee on construction projects in the province goes against Moe's political goal to stand up for jobs in Saskatchewan, particularly for an industry that has similar overlap with the energy sector. The industry was already hurting, especially since the province lost 14,000 construction jobs before there was a tax imposed on the industry, dating back to 2015.

Despite this, Moe's political focus of rallying against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's carbon-tax plan and scoring political points against Trudeau along the way has not dimmed. He happily reaps the benefits of his own tax increases as the Sask. Party works to reverse a hefty provincial deficit.

The carbon tax is the subject of Moe's ire on a near daily basis, but hidden behind his consistent social media screeds is ironic hypocrisy within the government's policies.

Over the last weekend, Moe dedicated his Twitter account exclusively to the anti-carbon tax agenda when he included a clip and transcript from an appearance on the John Gormley Show.

Moe's political strategy of "standing up for Saskatchewan" against Trudeau has paid huge political dividends for him. After all, his approval rating of 56 per cent to end 2018 was the second highest among current premiers and seems to be largely thanks to his carbon tax fight.

But increasing taxes at the same time as his government makes wholesale budget cuts to public services isn't standing up for Saskatchewan.

Earlier this spring, Moe killed 1,250 jobs in ministries, agencies and Crown corporations in the name of balancing the budget. There were more than 220 provincial employees who lost their jobs when the Sask. Party shut down the Saskatchewan Transportation Company in 2017, a decision that left the province without a province-wide bus service that had existed since 1946.

Moe and the yellow vests should care about those jobs as much as they do jobs lost in the energy sector.

Why is Moe's cash grab OK?

Moe and Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer have teamed up to bemoan the carbon tax as a cash grab to balance the federal budget but Moe fails to look in the mirror when it comes to his own policy and the hardships his government has imposed on the province.

It is baffling how Moe can brand himself as the champion of the province's interests while he applies a similar tax increase on the construction industry.

Trudeau's tax on pollution is an earnest attempt at doing something to combat climate change. It appears, in theory, to be a more fair solution to Canadians than Moe's PST increase and widespread austerity measures in Saskatchewan.

When anti-carbon tax protesters rallied at the Saskatchewan Legislature on Jan. 8, Moe welcomed them with open arms. In an ideal world, those protesters would make similar demands for change from their own provincial government.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ


Chase Ruttig is a Saskatoon-based writer who spent time as editor-in-chief of a weekly newspaper in Neepawa, Man., and as sports editor of his hometown newspaper in Yorkton, Sask. He has reported extensively on minor hockey in Saskatchewan.


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