The Saskatchewan budget was delivered on June 1st and with the slowdown in the provincial economy, the government is faced with reduced revenues and difficult choices.
Some governments, when faced with the prospects of budget deficits, cut spending on important infrastructure projects and social programs. Their hope is that these austerity measures will boost business sector confidence and investment. But according to Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, the economic research that supported the austerity push has been discredited. Instead, he argues that imposing such austerity serves to further depress the economy and delay recovery.
In the upcoming budget, Quint Development Corporation, a member of the Canadian CED Network, hopes that Saskatchewan will follow the federal government’s recent expansionary approach of creating better jobs, promoting a cleaner environment, and building more livable communities through investments in people and the economy.
Deficit spending on infrastructure and social programs can create thousands of jobs and spur economic recovery. And the investments that provide the biggest bang for the buck are programs that hire Saskatchewan people to do work like building, repairing or upgrading infrastructure and social services, and are programs that transfer money to low-income families and the unemployed.
To this end, Quint is focused on three key priorities for the core neighbourhoods in the upcoming Provincial Budget.
#1: Investments by the Province in Affordable Housing
Access to affordable housing is a necessary foundation for complete communities and stable families in Saskatoon’s core neighbourhoods. Despite high vacancy rates at present, some 13% of renters live in core housing need.
More important, though, is the increasing affordability burden that sees many renters paying more than 30% and even over 50% of their gross incomes on rent — a trend that has been increasing for at least 10 years.
Quint calls on the Province to prioritize the critical affordable housing shortage by partnering with other levels of government, businesses and community organizations to develop new affordable housing for low income families and individuals.
#2: Community Economic Development
Saskatchewan communities face complex challenges including poverty, social exclusion, income inequality, unemployment, urban decline, environmental and ecological degradation, and community sustainability.
Quint recognizes that these challenges must be addressed with a holistic and flexible approach. Community economic development (CED) provides that approach. CED is community-led action that creates economic opportunities while enhancing social and environmental conditions. It is flexible in that it allows each community to pursue development strategies that respond to its unique needs and priorities.
Quint calls on the provincial government to implement a CED Policy Framework and “Lens” to assist government departments in aligning their programs and policies to support CED.
#3: Poverty Reduction
These first two priorities are vital parts within the overall goal of poverty reduction.
A provincial advisory group on poverty reduction set up by the Saskatchewan government released recommendations to the Province in 2015 that laid out a clear path forward and called for swift implementation for a Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy. Here are just a few of those recommendations:
- Ensure income supports meet basic needs and provide an acceptable standard of living for families and individuals, regardless of circumstance or geography.
- Increase the supply of safe, affordable, and adequate housing for individuals and families with low incomes.
- Increase access to affordable quality child care.
- Provide the necessary supports to help people get long-term employment.
The Recommended Vision of the Advisory Group was that “We envision all of Saskatchewan committing to actions that will reduce, and ultimately eliminate, poverty in our communities.”
Quint calls on the Province to adequately fund and implement the strategies outlined by the Poverty Reduction Advisory Group, with the aim of meeting their target of reducing poverty in Saskatchewan by 50% by the end of 2020.