Saskatchewan Budget 2019: New $3K tax credit for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical crews

The government says last year's Humboldt Broncos bus collision brought the province's volunteer first responders "into sharp focus."

Humboldt Broncos bus crash brought the province's first responders 'into sharp focus,' finance minister says

An emergency vehicle near the Humboldt Broncos bus crash site on April 6, 2018. (Kymber Rae/AFP/Getty Images)

The Saskatchewan government is launching a new $3,000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters and medical crews like the ones who arrived at the devastating scene of the Humboldt Broncos crash.

The April 2018 crash "brought into sharp focus the importance of safety and of volunteer first responders who serve our province in times of need," Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said in her 2019 budget address Wednesday.

Dozens of paramedics, police and firefighters from local communities, including many volunteers, responded to the scene of the Broncos crash, which killed 16 people and injured 13.

"New personal tax credits are being introduced for volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical first responders who serve selflessly to protect lives and property, and respond when people need the most," she said.

Doug Lapchuk, president of the Saskatchewan Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, said the Broncos bus crash drove home to the public just how stressful the job of emergency responders is.

"The support that was there [at the crash site] first was the volunteers, and they did the best they could with what they had," Lapchuk said. "They did a phenomenal job. Nobody can take anything away from that.

"It's an unpleasant thing that we do sometimes, and hopefully it is raising awareness of the value that we bring as volunteers."

$20M in highway, intersection improvements

The new tax credit is one of two 2019 budget items spurred on by the Broncos tragedy, the other being $20 million of planned highway and intersection improvements.

Lapchuk said he welcomed the planned improvements, but warned they can't prevent all accidents.

"A lot of times it is hard to take the human factor out," he said. "The roads can be perfectly dry, sightlines can be clear. But it's the human factor."

Harpauer said the credit originated as an election promise during the 2016 general election. 

"We hadn't been able to act upon [it until now] because of our fiscal situation," she said. 

While spurred on by the Humboldt Broncos crash, the new tax credit began as a 2016 election promise, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

"I am quite frankly very proud and honoured to be able to have the fiscal space in this budget to move forward with that promise.

"Because of that incident, I think the entire province has realized more than ever of the extreme importance of those volunteers out in our rural areas especially."

The non-refundable tax credit for first responders will take effect in the 2020 tax year.

People with at least 200 hours of volunteer service will be eligible. According to the Ministry of Finance, that's about 7,700 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical first responders.

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Guy Quenneville

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