Government needs to follow promise to post financial statements online

Author: Gage Haubrich 2024/04/30

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

But if you want to find out how your RM or your town is spending the tax money you send it, it’s possible that you might have a tougher time tracking down those numbers.

Now, the vast majority of RMs go a great job at 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.

It’s something the provincial government used to do.

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

Then, in 2019, former-government relations minister Lori Carr said that a new web portal would be coming in 2021.

Now it’s 2024 and that web portal still doesn’t exist.

At the time the minister said the online portal would be 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 access easily municipal financial statements. First Nations communities in Saskatchewan and across Canada also routinely publish financial statements online.

It’s not difficult. We know because the Canadian Taxpayers Federation did it. After the government failed to follow through on its promise, the CTF took matters into our 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 the database. This is the responsibility of the provincial government, but 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 be posting these statements online, but when the person who’s job it 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 RM of Wilton. The Reeve of Wilton made $83,495 in 2021, according to the most recent documents. In the same year, the Reeve of Turtle River, the RM to the north, made $15,450.

Having access to these important documents allows taxpayers to ask important questions. Such as, why is one reeve making more than five times as much as the reeve next door? It’s possible there is 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 important information online for all taxpayers to access.

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Franco Terrazzano
Federal Director at
Canadian Taxpayers

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