There were more similarities than differences during a cordial Saskatchewan Party Leadership candidate debate in Swift Current on Thursday night.
Swift Current hosted the first of six debates to be hosted across the province this fall between the five candidates seeking to replace Brad Wall as leader of the Saskatchewan Party and Premier of the province.
The debate format provided the candidates an opportunity to provide opening and closing statements, and answer 10 question which were submitted by Saskatchewan Party members.
The first question out of the gate for the leadership hopefuls was what each candidate was planning to do to address the concerns raised over the spring budget’s initiative to add PST on insurance.
Scott Moe, MLA for Rosthern-Shellbrook MLA, admitted the province was facing a series of challenging decisions as part of their three-year plan to balance the provincial budget.
“I announced a couple of weeks ago that we would be able to reinstate the exemption of the PST on Crop Insurance, Hail Insurance, on Life Insurance, and Health Insurance. And we were able to replace those dollars in our budget to remain on our three-year plan to balance.”
Alanna Koch, who recently served as the Deputy Minister to the Premier, said she has heard extensively about the issue during her travels across the province.
“What I have promised to do is upon election as Premier, if I’m so fortunate, I would do an immediate review of the PST on insurance. It’s something that I think had unintended consequences. I’m not sure that there was enough analysis done before the decision was made to proceed with it.”
MLA for Saskatoon Northwest Gord Wyant said he would be willing to consult with financial and insurance professionals to help final alternatives to this tax.
“I would be prepared to reinstate the exemption to reinstate the exemption for PST, and I would make that retroactive to the original date the decision was made,” he said.
“What we need to do is sit down and continue to have that consultation with industry to make sure that we can come up with a solution that’s acceptable to industry, but at the same time not adversely effecting our budget.”
Ken Cheveldayoff, MLA for Saskatoon Willowgrove, also noted he has heard great concerns about PST on insurance while travelling across the province. He recently had an opportunity to meet with the professional associations that represents financial planners and life insurance agents, who presented alternative ideas to the tax.
“They’ve shown me that there’s a better way to do it,” Cheveldayoff said. “When putting a budget together you don’t always have the opportunity to consult as wide as you would like to.”
He also noted the provincial government needs to consult and commit to a new 10 year financial strategy.
“If I become Premier, on day one, I’ll put in place a commission. They will report within 60 days. They’ll have a wide consultation. It’ll be more than just PST. It’ll be all of our taxes.”
Tina Beaudry—Mellor, MLA for Regina University noted she was quickly opposed to the PST on insurance.
“I was the first candidate to announce that I would reinstate the exemption on PST for insurance products across the board.”
She noted that when Saskatchewan’s budget was passed in March, they did not know the extent of the federal government’s tax changes and those impacts on small businesses and farms.
“As a result of that, and the threat of a Carbon Tax, and the changes we made to fuel exemption, coupled with the PST on insurance premiums there is a layered effect on our farms and small businesses across this province. We can not impose this on an agricultural sector, which is bolstering our provincial GDP while other sectors struggle at this time.”
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