Saskatchewan residents are paying more to attend live concerts, theater performances and art gallery exhibitions following the expansion of the provincial sales tax (PST).
Effective Oct. 1, the Saskatchewan government extended the six per cent provincial sales tax to entertainment events, including sporting events, concerts, professional theatres, museums, zoos, historic sites and arts and crafts shows.
Jaime Boldt, executive director of the Globe Theatre, said the nonprofit hopes to absorb the additional PST to keep ticket prices flat. However, it was not financially feasible.
As a result, a $55 ticket for the Globe Theater production will now cost $58.30.
Boldt fears the additional tax on tickets would reduce sales. On the other hand, this could affect the budget of the non-profit organization.
“A healthy non-profit organization ideally has three to six months of operating reserves in the bank. After COVID, there aren’t many healthy nonprofits in our industry,” Boldt said.
“Every cent is important to us. Every dollar is important to us.”
The MacKenzie Art Gallery has increased its general admission fee from $10 to $12 to compensate for the added PST. These prices include taxes.
The cheapest individual tickets for a Regina Symphony Orchestra (RSO) concert at the Conexus Center for the Arts used to be $25, including GST and service charges.
Concertgoers must now pay $26.14 with PST added. However, the RSO offers $15 tickets for anyone under 30. The orchestra said it will absorb the PST on those tickets to keep the price at $15.
The Regina Art Gallery does not charge general admission for art exhibitions. However, curator Sandee Moore said PST will affect master classes and gallery membership.
His upcoming three-day workshop would normally cost $410, but PST ups the cost to $435.
“It’s not very trivial,” Moore said. “Many of our member artists are older and may be working on a fixed income.”
As a result, Moore said, some may not be able to afford to attend the workshops, which could affect the gallery’s budget.
“We’re unusual for an art gallery in that we mostly raise the operating budget ourselves,” she said, adding that the gallery receives the fewest grants compared to other galleries in the city.
Originally, the PST extension was set to include gym and fitness memberships. However, the government removed them from the expansion as part of its affordability plan during the first quarter fiscal update.
The Government of Saskatchewan is not currently considering any other changes to the PST expansion.
“These changes have been made to improve revenue stability and largely reflect the GST rules applicable in all provinces that have a harmonized sales tax,” the government said in a statement.
“However, we note that all ideas and options around taxation and program spending will remain under consideration as we move forward with our budget for 2023-24 and beyond.”
Em Ironstar, executive director of the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance (SAA), was disappointed that the arts industry was not removed from the tax expansion. She said the added cost creates challenges for people who want to access the arts.
“The arts play a really big role in our well-being, just like fitness and health,” Ironstar said.
“It’s definitely a concern for people who are dealing with rising costs on top of everything else.”
After two years, arts organizations are just beginning to recover from the pandemic, says Ironstar. She said the PST expansion could represent another step backwards.
SAA conducted an online survey last month asking respondents whether expanding PST would affect their ability to attend arts and cultural events. Most people who responded said they would have to attend fewer events or not attend at all, Ironstar said.
“These small amounts start to add up,” she said. “Going to cultural events goes hand in hand with going out to eat or drink. When these kinds of costs are combined with each other, it can really change people’s decisions and behavior.”
SAA recently sent a letter to the province outlining its concerns about the PST expansion. Ironstar said a group of them would meet with Minister Laura Ross later this week.
He hopes the government will consider reinvesting some of the PST revenue back into the arts industry.