For local MLA Donna Harpauer, the highlight of 2018 was tabling her first budget as finance minister.
“That comes with a lot of work and, of course, a lot of anticipation that we keep our our budget on track to balance within the [provincial government's] three-year plan [to return to balanced budgets],” the Humboldt-Watrous MLA said. “That indeed was the case. We are on track to balance now in 2019-20 even though we are facing headwinds in our non-renewable resource revenues.”
Harpauer said a lot of the challenges the province faces are outside its control. They are concerned a federally-imposed carbon tax will negatively affect the economy and families. The province has also been vocal about getting a pipeline approved in a timely manner so the United States isn’t the only possible customer for Saskatchewan oil.
The finance minister said the province has been make a tax shift away from non-renewable resource revenues and towards consumption taxes, increasing the PST by one per cent in 2017.
“It is demonstrating that it is keeping us on track to be able to balance and we are less reliant as a province on non-renewable resource revenues.”
Overall, Harpauer said the biggest highlight for 2018 was the selection of a new premier, Scott Moe; new opposition leader, Ryan Meili; and lieutenant governor, Thomas Malloy.
“Even though we've had these changes, I don't think it's changed the direction of our government,” Harpauer said.
That direction focuses on the economy.
“We feel that if we can facilitate an environment that encourages investment through low, competitive taxes and regulations, we will be able to generate the revenues we need to provide the services that our communities and our residents are expecting for ourselves and for future generations.”
Locally, Harpauer said Humboldt had a difficult year.
“It was just a matter of being supportive behind the scenes where we could, and supplying services where we could, where people reached out and looked for services.”
For 2019, Harpauer is aiming for a balanced budget, keeping taxes low and keeping an AAA credit rate.
“I think in 2019, we're going to be looking at what infrastructure projects should be a priority for Saskatchewan,” she said, adding the province has signed a new bilateral agreement with the federal government. “Hopefully with a balanced budget, we can move forward with some future infrastructure projects that we can we can bring forward in 2019.”
One of piece of infrastructure the Journal asked Harpauer about was improvements to Highway 5 between Humboldt and Saskatoon.
“I can’t predict the budget, but we’re projecting to move forward,” Harpauer said, adding the preliminary engineering for passing lanes and shoulder widening between the junction of Highway 2 and Saskatoon has taken more time than expected.
“It's not an easy endeavor, because of the hills that are there and the deep sloughs along that highway, but that project is still moving forward, so hopefully we'll see construction in 2019.”