Saskatchewan taxpayers have a right to know how local governments are spending their money

Gage HaubrichIf you want to find out how the provincial government is wasting your money, you only need to head to the government’s website and check out the latest budget.

But if you want to find out how your rural municipality (RM) or town is spending your tax money, you might have a tougher time tracking down those numbers.

Now, the vast majority of RMs in Saskatchewan do a great job of making financial statements available to local taxpayers. But it’s still important to get rid of any bad apples left in the barrel.

To help these municipalities and ensure transparency, the provincial government needs to start posting the financial statements of all municipalities online.

Saskatchewan financial statements

The Saskatchewan Legislative Building in Regina
Photo by Ruvim Kerimov

Related Stories
Saskatchewan is facing a debt crisis

Scott Moe’s carbon-tax tactics threaten democracy’s foundations

Why Saskatchewan’s $1 billion surplus turned into a $250 million deficit


It’s something the provincial government used to do.

For no apparent reason, the government shut this transparency off in 2008.

Then, in 2019, former government relations minister Lori Carr said a new web portal would be coming in 2021. Now it’s 2024, but that web portal still doesn’t exist.

Back in 2019, the minister said that online portals would provide the “ultimate transparency from every level of government.”

It’s baffling to understand why, three years later, the provincial government still hasn’t followed through on its promise. Because it already has the documents. Any kid in junior high can set up a website. The government could start putting these documents online tomorrow.

Every year, every municipality in the province, from the largest city of Saskatoon down to the resort village of Candle Lake, is required by law to send their financial statements to the provincial government.

Regina doesn’t need to do any legwork. It just needs to get one bureaucrat to upload the documents.

Other provinces are already doing it. Alberta and Ontario have websites where taxpayers can easily access municipal financial statements. First Nations communities in Saskatchewan and across Canada also routinely publish financial statements online.

It’s not complicated. We know because the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) did it. After the government failed to follow through on its promise, the CTF took matters into its own hands and released an online database where taxpayers could find the financial statements for all the province’s municipalities.

Recently, the CTF submitted a freedom of information request to the Saskatchewan government for all the most recent provincial municipal financial statements to update its database. While this is the provincial government’s responsibility, we are trying to bridge the gap.

In a report based on the request, the Saskatchewan Privacy and Information Commissioner, the independent official who makes sure the government is being transparent, noted that the government should be: “making financial statements and auditor’s reports it receives from municipalities available to the public.”

It’s kind of embarrassing the government even needed the commissioner to point out something so obvious.

It was already a no-brainer that the government should post these statements online, but when the person whose job is to ensure transparency calls out the provincial government, it should stop dawdling and start posting documents.

Taxpayers deserve to easily know what the money they send to any level of government is being spent on.

Take the rural municipality of Wilton. According to the most recent documents, the Reeve of Wilton made $83,495 in 2021. In the same year, the Reeve of Turtle River, the rural municipality to the north, made $15,450.

Having access to these important documents allows taxpayers to ask important questions. For example, why is one reeve making more than five times as much as the reeve next door? There may be a reasonable explanation, but taxpayers need easy access to that information to ask these questions.

Taxpayers have a right to know how local governments are spending their money, and they shouldn’t have to fight for basic financial records. The government needs to follow through on its promise and finally start posting this vital information online for all Saskatchewan taxpayers to access.

Gage Haubrich is the Prairie Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

For interview requests, click here.

The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

© Troy Media
Troy Media is an editorial content provider to media outlets and its own hosted community news outlets across Canada.