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Legislative Report (22 June 2005)

Increasing Minimum Wage Not Good Enough
22 June 2005

Sask Party Calls for Tax Cut to Help All Low Income Earners.

The Calvert government loves to play a game called Revolving Money. It works like this: you give people more money, and then take it back from them in the form of taxes. This is essentially what the Premier and his cabinet are doing.

This week, the Saskatchewan Party learned that the Calvert government plans to announce a three-stage increase to the minimum wage from $6.65 to $7.05 this September, and then to $7.55 next March, and again to $7.95 in March 2007.

The Saskatchewan Party believes the governments plan to increase the minimum wage is not good enough. What low income earners need is more money in their pockets and the Official Opposition has a balanced plan that will do just that partially through an increase in the minimum wage, and partially through a tax cut.

Our plan calls for people earning minimum wage to pay almost no income tax. And our plan also allows for people earning under $35,000 a year to pay less tax. We believe that everyone, including government, must be involved in fixing the minimum wage issue and improving the lives of low income earners. A strict increase in the minimum wage with no corresponding tax cut will mean consumers and business owners will have to shoulder the entire burden. Our plan ensures such a burden is shared across the board.

The Saskatchewan Party supports an increase in the minimum wage. Its long overdue, and its time the minimum wage reflected the growing costs of living in Saskatchewan under the Calvert government.

We would also like to see politics removed from setting the minimum wage. We need a system that puts stability and predictability into setting the minimum wage a model where consumers, employers and government all share a role.

Raising the minimum wage is a step in the right direction, but without a tax cut, its just Revolving Money.

Calvert Backtracks Again
Like Available Hours, 0-1-1 Wage Mandate Dead Once again, we see Premier Calvert forced to put an end to short sighted initiatives for Saskatchewan. On June 15, the NDP announced the end of the 0-1-1 wage mandate, which was supposed to limit all public sector employees to a payment schedule of zero per cent, then one and one over three years. This mandate was announced in the 2004-05 budget when the Calvert government claimed it was needed for austerity purposes this at a time when the province was rolling in more than $1 billion in unexpected revenue.

Since the very beginning, the Calvert government has said it has stuck to this wage mandate, when in reality, there was nothing farther from the truth. Since its introduction, we have heard many things about the mandate: that it was firm, that it was 0-1-1 with flexibility, that it was 0-1-1 with a light at the end of the tunnel, that it was a guideline, and that the 2-2-2 the teachers signed for was really 0-1-1. Confused? So are we.

From the very beginning, we have said that setting a wage mandate like this is not being a responsible and respectful party in the collective bargaining process. Its difficult to negotiate when you are told at the outset what the outcome could be.

What this boils down to is trust and transparency. Its hard to believe anything the Calvert government has said on the 0-1-1 mandate because they have been so inconsistent. The latest news on the 0-1-1 mandate was that the Calvert government secretly re-opened negotiations with the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union and added an additional $7.4 million dollars to salaries under the contract. And they didnt want to tell you the taxpayer, because they thought it might raise expectations. What concerns us is the fact that they slunk around behind closed doors, signed a deal in secret and werent even planning to tell you the taxpayer who pays the bill.

The Official Opposition believes in fairness. Thats why we believe in the collective bargaining process. With the recent round of contract negotiations with public sector employees, fairness went out the window. With the end of 0-1-1, we will be able to get back to the proper way of negotiating and settling contracts in a way that is satisfactory to all stakeholders.

NDP Minister Pat Atkinson said the problem with 0-1-1 wasnt so much that it was a mandate; it was that they told everyone that they had a mandate. Actually, the problem in this whole affair is that the Calvert government didnt see fit to tell its shareholders the truth at any point in this 0-1-1 mess.

Crowns the Latest Victim of Calverts Mismanagement Rate Hikes in the Works
Saskatchewan families might have to dig a little deeper into their pockets.

Just after the Calvert government spent close to $75,000 sending out a brochure highlighting the profits of the major crowns, two of those entities, SaskPower and SaskEnergy, are musing about rate hikes. So, now consumers could be facing rate hikes for power and natural gas, but dont forget the Calvert government is also going to be giving out another rebate this year. Confused? So are we.

What we have here is a vicious cycle of the Calvert government stealing from one of your pockets only to put it back in the other, all the while trying to get credit for giving you your money back. Again, its the game of Revolving Money.

This is just plain silly. Why is the government playing a shell game with our tax dollars? First they take it, then give it back, then take it again. Its enough to make ones head spin. Here are a couple of suggestions: just let taxpayers keep their money, instead of playing games; and allow our Crown Corporations to run like businesses instead of trying to use them for cheap political purposes.

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