There was a lot to like in last week's provincial budget.
Unfortunately a lot of the good was buried under the avalanche of questions and criticisms surrounding the demise of the Film Employment Tax Credit which, in reality, should have played out as a minor item, and in fact, shouldn't have even been thrown into the soup in the first place. It was a misguided move that came back to haunt its authors.
After proudly proclaiming for the past three years that this was the newly branded, forward-thinking province, the Sask. Party took an awkward step backward by pulling the tax credit program which, at its worst, is pretty well revenue neutral and at its top, pumps millions into the provincial economy.
The sadness we see in the demise of the film tax credit is that we're again sent back to the good old “we're just Saskatchewan, we don't deserve this” mode.
We don't think that's what we're about these days, so is this really what we want to do and where we want to go on this file? We hope the provincial government is asking itself these same questions. After all, we do have a huge sound stage that will certainly go to waste unless some straight thinkers step up to the plate. And hey, it's OK that the sound stage was built during another government's term. We don't care about those petty things.
What we fear was being lost were the positive things like the fact the budget was balanced on both summary and general revenue fronts. We didn't like it that there was no pay down of debt, but we can't have everything.
We liked that there were no tax increases on any level.
We liked that there was a last minute shuffle that prevented a hole from appearing in funding for K to 12 education. It may only be a temporary fix, but the problem was identified and addressed, if only for the time being.
We liked that healthcare funding is approaching stability, even though it is now nearly 42 per cent of the budget. It doesn't appear to be leaking huge sums now. They have it down to dribbles. More can be done, but we haven't heard the raucous voices of protest ... yet.
We like that there will finally be some thought and money being put into a truck bypass at Estevan. We didn't like to see our pleas for a twinned highway being ignored ... again, but we can harp on that topic another day.
We liked the fact there were some realistic incentives put into place to stimulate housing construction outside Regina and Saskatoon.
We liked the fact that transfer payments to the municipal governments is rising. We didn't like to see that some of the infrastructure costs are being shifted to the towns and cities along with it ... but we can't have everything.
We liked the fact the budget didn't take this government and by association, ourselves, into the world of the hard right. There is still the acknowledgement that we live in a slightly different world that includes first-class Crown corporations that know what they're doing in a cost effective manner.
We liked that there were incentives for first-time home buyers and a top up on our provincial rainy day fund.
But what we liked most of all was the fact that this particular budget gave us no daunting reason not to want to live here. And by the way, our doors are still open. Even with the demise of Enterprise Saskatchewan, we have a belief that our smart people will come up with an efficient replacement, and we'll keep Saskatchewan's business chugging forward.