Saskatoon

Rural internet praise meets deficit concerns as Sask. reacts to federal budget

Funding for municipalities and rural internet were among the federal budget measures prompting reaction in Saskatchewan on Tuesday.

Premier says Sask. should get larger share of funding for rural broadband based on need

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe told reporters on Tuesday there were positives to the budget but he is concerned about the deficit. (CBC News)

Funding for municipalities and rural internet were among the federal budget measures prompting reaction in Saskatchewan on Tuesday.

The federal budget, titled Investing in the Middle Class, targeted seniors, skilled workers and millenials as part of its overall spending plan.

In Saskatchewan, there was positive reaction to the government's promise of a high-speed rural internet roll-out and funding for municipalities.

Sask. should get larger share of internet funds: Moe

Premier Scott Moe said the province will be seeking funds to improve access in rural and remote areas.

"I would hope that Saskatchewan given our Northern and rural demographic would be able to access, not just on a per capita basis but on a needs basis, if you will, a larger share of that funding," said Moe at the legislature on Tuesday.

Moe said his biggest concerns with the federal budget relate to the carbon tax, to which the Saskatchewan government has been staunchly opposed, and the federal deficit.

The federal government had promised to return the budget to balance by 2019. It is now projecting a $20-billion deficit next year, which is scheduled to fall to $15 billion two years later, then to $10 billion in 2023-2024.
SUMA president Gordon Barnhart says the rural internet promise will help Saskatchewan communities grow. (CBC)

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) welcomed the government's promised investment in high-speed rural internet to be available across Canada by 2030.  

"Saskatchewan's hometowns are hubs of growth and innovation," said SUMA president Gordon Barnhart.

We would have liked to see some recognition of the long-term financial impacts of the carbon tax on agricultural producers.- Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president Todd Lewis

"Access to reliable, fast, and affordable broadband will foster increased growth and improve quality of life for residents."

SUMA also noted a $2.2 billion top-up to municipalities through the federal Gas Tax Fund, adding that it doubles the federal government's commitment to municipalities.

Regina mayor welcomes gas tax boost

The City of Regina issued a news release welcoming the payment.

"The doubling of this transfer represents a significant opportunity to advance priority infrastructure projects that will greatly improve our community," said Mayor Michael Fougere. 

"This shows our direct, strong relationship with the federal government and the ability of the municipal sector to identify projects that best serve our residents."

Fougere also welcomed a new $4 billion Canada Housing Benefit aimed at reducing homelessness by 50 per cent, as well as measures to assist first-time home buyers.

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) described the budget as a "mixed bag" for growers.

It praised the government for rectifying what it describes as a loophole that meant not all farm fuel would be exempt from the carbon tax.  

But president Todd Lewis said APAS still wants more clarification on the process.

"We would have liked to see some recognition of the long-term financial impacts of the carbon tax on agricultural producers," Lewis said.

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