REGINA – Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he and his cabinet ministers are taking a wage freeze to help address revenue challenges brought about by slumping oil prices.
Wall says the wage freeze also applies to senior government officials and other non-unionized executives, such as Crown corporation and health region employees.
He says the move is for one year and is expected to save $15 million.
Wall is also asking the board that governs the salaries of legislature members to implement a freeze.
“We’re going to direct our members of the board of internal economy … to move a motion waiving the MLA increase that would happen this year otherwise,” Wall said Friday.
That 2.4 per cent increase, tied to inflation, is set for April.
The government will also be writing to school divisions and post-secondary institutions to ask that they apply a freeze, Wall said.
“We need to lead by example,” he said.
“We have a period of time, because of oil revenue, where we’re going to all need to make some tough decisions.”
Wall said earlier this week that low world oil prices mean Saskatchewan will face a budget shortfall of between $600 million and $800 million this year.
He told delegates to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association annual meeting that the shortfall amounts to about seven per cent of the province’s revenue.
He said that means there are likely to be spending cuts, because the government wants to keep taxes low and not run a deficit.
In its last budget update in November, the province was projecting a $70.9-million surplus for 2014-15.
Wall stressed that soft oil markets haven’t hurt Saskatchewan’s economy nearly as much as neighbouring Alberta. He noted that Saskatchewan is benefiting from a strengthening potash market, good performance from the agriculture sector and increased exports because of the lower value of the Canadian dollar.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, his cabinet ministers and members of the legislature are taking a five per cent pay cut as the province deals with billions of dollars in lost oil revenue.
The price of oil had slipped into the US$40s a barrel, but has rallied somewhat recently and was back over US$50 a barrel on Friday.
— With files from CKRM