Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck again pressed the government on Wednesday to also provide $500 cheques to children after Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said the move would delay the rollout.
Beck told the legislature “it makes no sense” to exclude children from the government’s affordability cheques, noting one in four children live in poverty and many of their families are using the food bank.
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The $500 tax credit cheques, which will cost the government $450 million, are expected to land in people’s mailboxes later this month.
Harpauer told reporters on Tuesday that while the government had discussions about providing the affordability cheques to kids, she said the measure would likely delay the rollout for “a month or more.”
She said it would be more complicated to include children because they wouldn’t be on the province’s tax database system.
She argued the NDP should have asked for the measure sooner.
“I think that it’s a little late for them to come out and ask for a change when they know that the cheques are coming out very shortly,” she said. “They had some time to come up with an alternative and they did not.”
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The NDP, however, said they did ask the province to include children back in August.
Opposition finance critic Trent Wotherspoon told reporters back then that excluding children is not fair. He has also asked the government not proceed with power and gas bill hikes, suspend the provincial fuel tax and reverse 32 other fee hikes.
Wotherspoon told reporters on Tuesday the measure to include children in the cheques program would cost about $150 million.
He said the government would have enough cash to make this happen. The province plans to use its $1.86 billion in windfall revenues to pay down $1 billion on the debt and $450 million on the cheques.
He argued that a single mom with three children would see less relief in the form of cheques while a couple with no children would see more.
“We need to make sure we are delivering these in a fair way,” he said. “(How it’s being delivered now) just isn’t fair and just isn’t right.”
Harpauer, however, argued that low-income moms and dads are eligible for other benefits, noting the federal government’s climate rebates are also available. She said Saskatchewan has the highest tax exemption for children in the country.
She said the province will consider additional affordability measures should resource royalty revenue be higher than what has been projected.
As for energy and electricity bills, Don Morgan, the minister responsible for Crown corporations, said Saskatchewan has among the cheapest rates in the country.
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