Revenue sharing - Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association

Dear Editor,
More than 77 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population lives in the province’s cities, towns,
villages, resort villages, and northern municipalities. The success of our province is
inextricably linked to the success of our urban municipalities. When our hometowns do
well, so does the province.
Urban municipalities are on the front lines of Saskatchewan’s growing economy — we
provide the foundation for the growth our province has been experiencing over the last
decade. The provincial government has a vested interest ensuring these communities
are great places to work, play, and live.
The majority of Saskatchewan’s growth can be attributed to the population and
economic growth that occurs in our urban municipalities. In the last eight years,
Saskatchewan has incorporated three new cities, each with at least 5,000 residents:
Martensville, Meadow Lake, and Warman. In that time, we have also welcomed 135,935
people — enough people to fill the equivalent of more than 27 new cities. And according
to a 2016 report from Statistics Canada, our two largest cities — Saskatoon and Regina —
are growing faster than the urban average across Canada.
Our urban municipalities provide the core services that are essential to our quality of life
and that foster and sustain growth. These include the services we rely on every day:
 police and fire services;
 snow clearing;
 public transit;
 recreation, arts, and culture facilities and programming;
 economic and community development; and
 garbage and recycling collection/processing.
Municipalities only collect about eight cents of every tax dollar and have a limited ability
to bring in revenue beyond property taxes. Municipalities are also bound by legislation to
run a balanced operating budget. As a result, municipalities alone cannot support the
incredible growth in their communities and rely on the province to broaden their revenue
After years of consulting with municipalities, the province announced a historic revenue
sharing agreement in 2009 that resulted in one point of the Provincial Sales Tax going to
municipalities in the form of municipal revenue sharing. This gives our communities
access to another form of revenue that is predictable, sustainable and unconditional.
The program was a result of our strong relationship with the province and is a model for
the nation – other provinces are looking at Saskatchewan’s program as a guide to
establishing similar revenue sharing agreements. It is something we can all be proud of.
Municipal revenue sharing not only helps provide services vital to growing the economy,
but allows us to keep up with that growth; it supports Saskatchewan’s economic,
environmental, cultural, and social quality of life goals.
Our collaborative partnership with the province has resulted in provincial funding that
supports municipal operational expenditures. While this new agreement marked a
significant, positive development in the relationship between municipalities and the
province, one key piece is missing: permanence. Current legislation gives the Minister of
Government Relations the power to take away or alter grants, with little formal process.
When oil prices dipped in 2014, provincial media reported that “everything was on the
table” for the province in the lead up to the 2015-16 provincial budget. As a result, we
lobbied the provincial government to honour its promise to share one point of the PST
with municipalities. Ultimately, the provincial government maintained its commitment to
revenue sharing for the 2015-16 provincial budget.
While the revenue sharing experience in 2015 ended positively, it illustrates the need to
update provincial legislation so the municipal revenue sharing agreement is both
unconditional and permanent. Urban municipalities rely on predictable revenue sharing
to provide the services that a growing province needs.
We want to continue being partners in the growth of our Saskatchewan. However, to do
so, we need a provincial commitment to a permanent revenue sharing program, not one
based on the whims of the governing party.