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'It’s disappointing': Restaurants say Sask. budget missed the mark

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A group representing Canadian restaurants says the Saskatchewan budget missed an opportunity to help the food service industry.

Restaurants Canada was looking for some cost relief as restaurants grapple with skyrocketing food prices, inflation, a labour shortage and recovery from the pandemic.

“The 2023 budget didn't really move the fiscal needle for the restaurant sector. It’s disappointing,” Jennifer Henshaw, Restaurants Canada’s vice-president of the prairies and the north, tells CTV News.

Restaurants Canada says 75 per cent of table-service restaurants are still in debt because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the group is pleased the budget contained no new taxes, it was pushing for measures to help businesses’ bottom lines.

It recommended Saskatchewan follow the lead of other provinces by introducing mitigating measures to soften the impact of the minimum wage increases.

This month, Manitoba introduced the Small Business Minimum Wage Program. The program helps offset the impact of minimum wage increases by offering a one-time lump sum payment of $520 per employee — up to a maximum of $10,400.

Restaurants Canada called for Saskatchewan to reinstate a PST exemption on dining.

In 2017, the province announced restaurant meals would be subject to PST.

Tabled on Wednesday, the province outlined a $1 billion surplus in the budget — which will go towards paying off debt.

“With that $1 billion surplus, they could have gone much farther to provide some cost relief for the hardest hit industries,” Henshaw said.

The finance minister pushed back against spending the surplus because the funding may not be able to continue in the future.

“We have to be very careful as a government to not take one-time revenue and incorporate it and bake it into our year-over-year operational costs … If you’ve baked it into your operational costs, then the following year, where do you find that money,” Finance Minister Donna Harpauer told reporters, following the release of the budget.  

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