MLA Michelson on Legislative Session

Robert Thomas

It was a productive Spring session of the Legislature with the government able to pass 50 pieces of legislation according to Moose Jaw North MLA Warren Michelson.

"All in all we were pleased in the amount of work done. It was a bit of a challenge with a new Premier getting things organized but things fell into place," Michelson stated.

"I'm amazed in the number of bills and policies debated and discussed and passed through this year," he said, adding that it had been said that there are too many laws, by former Premier Brad Wall, but there always seemed to be something where "people need to be protected."

Two of the big issues dealt with in this session of the Legislature involved issues arising from federal government actions, namely the carbon tax and cannabis legalization.

"There is some fight on this. When you take a really good look at the carbon tax it does nothing to reduce carbon. It's a tax they say they are giving back to the provinces but there has to be some cost in doing that."

The SaskParty government is not supporting an effort to simply tax for the sake of taxing but looking for real solutions through research and development, he said.

"How can we actually reduce carbon?"

Michelson pointed to changes in farming practices, carbon sequestration and working towards better fuel efficiencies as the solution.

"We have improvements in fuel and let's look at those Industries and how do you improve on that?"

Michelson stated that the federal government could place a 50 percent tax on fuel and by doing so did that mean he was only supposed to drive as far as Belle Plaine instead of all the way to Regina? A carbon tax would simply have massive negative effects on the Province's economy, he stated.

"It would effect the economy of the province but not achieve the results desired."

The other area the Provincial Government acted on because of federal actions was in the area of cannabis.

Michelson stated that it was an issue the Province and municipalities had had hoisted upon them from the federal government.

The Province did some extensive studies into the issue and responded with licensed cannabis retailers.

On Friday, the two retailers the City of Moose Jaw allowed to operate here - by virtue of a unanimous vote not to oppose - were announced on Friday.

The recipients were Jack Carleton Ltd consisting of Jack Carleton, Alex Carleton (owner of the Crushed Can Sports Bar) and Ira Dales (a local computer consultant and two time former Moose Jaw City Council candidate). Plus Darcy Fisher of Saskatoon.

Other pieces of legislation included changes to the Privacy Act in relation to the non-consensual circulation of intimate images.

The Domestic Violence Act which will allow victims of domestic violence the right to unpaid leave if required to assist them in their situation.

Michelson said the NDP opposition overall seemed to be ineffective and failed to focus on the big picture.

He pointed to the three -hour question and answer session the Opposition had with Premier Scott Moe and how they failed to ask any hard questions on the economy and transportation but asked a few questions on healthcare.

"They were quite ineffective but we are working together where we can to help the province."

On the austerity budget and the move away from resource revenues and balancing the budget, Michelson stated the provincial government is continually looking at it and potentially tweaking it if need be.

"Did we hurt things with taxes on ag products and insurance is one question we asked. We had to back off on those because they hurt the Province."

Michelson said there are only two ways to help achieve the Provincial Government's goal of balancing the budget, either through cuts or raising taxes. But you can only cut so far.

"You can't cut yourself into a profit you have to generate income," Michelson stated.

In areas of the used car tax, the automotive sales industry was telling the government half of the used cars come from outside the province so they were paying taxes on them anyhow, he said, adding there had been suggestions of only taxing on the difference between a trade in and a new vehicle.

Despite the "Summer break" from the Legislature Michelson will be busy working.

To help achieve a better understanding of the budget's effect and the economy, Michelson said he would be part of a group of MLAs holding meetings across the province this Summer.

The committee will be reporting back to perspective ministries to insure feedback and potential changes made.

So far the economy committee has held a public meeting in Weyburn.

At that meeting one thing brought up was charging the six percent PST to construction and it having a negative effect on investment and the economy.

It should also be noted the Saskatchewan Association of Urban Municipalities (SUMA) in the Spring was seeking input from members into the effects of the PST on capital projects.

Additionally, the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association has been actively lobbying the Province to remove the PST on school construction and repair projects.

Local contracting firms have also informally told the MJ Independent the six percent PST has had a noticeable negative effect on their business.

The Economy Committee is scheduled to hold a public meeting in Moose Jaw that exact date is yet to be determined.