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New year brings changes to laws, regulations and fees in Sask.

Higher phone fees for 911 and rent hikes for producers leasing land came into effect on Jan. 1

Higher 911 fees

Monthly fees applied to phone bills for the 911 emergency service went up for the first time since 2010. Starting Jan. 1, the fee went up by 32 cents.

Lease hikes on agricultural land

The cost of leasing Crown agricultural land that is eligible for sale will go up by 45 per cent as the province tries to encourage lessees to buy the land.

The province is offering current lease holders a 10-per-cent purchase incentive on the sale of eligible cultivated or previously cultivated land until March 31, 2018.

Suspension of education savings grants

The province has suspended payments through the Saskatchewan Advantage Grant for Education Savings (SAGES), saying its contributions will “resume when the province’s financial situation improves.”

SAGES provided grants of 10 per cent on contributions into a Registered Education Savings Plan to a maximum of $250 per child per year. The maximum lifetime grant per child was $4,500. The province says federal grants are still available for parents who save for their children’s post-secondary education through RESPs.

SaskPower subject to new regulations

New regulations on coal-fired electricity came into effect on Jan. 1. The province says the regulations are a necessary step toward an equivalency agreement with the federal government. The changes will impose a greenhouse gas emissions cap on SaskPower’s coal and gas-fired electricity, and impose reporting obligations on independent power producers.

Changes to small claims legislation

The government says the new Small Claims Act, 2016, which has replaced the current Small Claims Act, 1997, will prevent abuse of the process. It is also designed to encourage people to resolve disputes quickly and in a less costly manner. More measures have also been put in place to help those representing themselves, including the ability to submit documentation by email or mail.

Judges of small claims court now have the authority to order costs against parties, which is hoped will make the process more fair. They will also be able to make findings of contempt.

Small business tax threshold rising

The threshold increased from $500,000 to $600,000 on Jan. 1. The threshold is the amount of income up to which small businesses pay tax at the lower tax rate of two per cent. The corporate tax rate has also been returned to 12 per cent.

Education property tax change

Under a provincial budget change announced in March 2017, money collected by municipalities will now go into the province’s general revenue fund account and then be distributed to school divisions. Previously, municipalities would collect and direct the funds straight to the school divisions. The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation has been critical of the change.

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