SASKATOON -- An environmental economist says Saskatchewan’s new $150 annual fee for owners of electric vehicles is “mind-boggling.”

“You put a tax on things to discourage people from engaging in those activities, so what the province is signalling is, you shouldn’t be using EVs, you probably shouldn’t even be walking to work, you should drive to work,” said Joel Bruneau, associate professor and economic department head at the University of Saskatchewan.

The fee was announced in the provincial budget on Tuesday and will go into effect Oct. 1. The government says it is an effort to recoup fuel tax money from residents who drive fully electric vehicles.

“These vehicles contribute to wear and tear on provincial roadways, but because they do not consume traditional fuels they are not contributing to highway maintenance through the provincial Fuel Tax," the government said in its budget.

The fee will only apply to fully electric vehicles but could eventually be expanded to include hybrid vehicles and commercial electric vehicles.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance said 403 vehicles in the province are registered as electric vehicles.

The government said it estimates collecting about $60,000 annually through the tax.

“This is clearly a slap in the face of people who believe in climate change and believe that they have a personal responsibility and they should do something about it,” Bruneau said.

“It’s bizarre.”

The fee is the opposite of what Tyler Krause, president of the Tesla Owner’s Club of Saskatchewan, was hoping for come budget time.

“All you’re doing is holding back progress towards sustainable transportation,” Krause told CTV News.

He said he hoped to see an incentive from the provincial government that would get more drivers into an EV, not a tax to deter them.

“We have a lot of other types of vehicles that use our roads that don’t pay these taxes for example, bicycles, they all use our roads and we don’t see a tax on those.”