REGINA -- Saskatchewan’s Opposition NDP proposed a few measures it believes will help to strengthen the local economy, which has been hard-hit in the last round of COVID-19 restrictions.

The proposals include waiving PST for restaurant meals to take some pressure off of local businesses as they reopen, removing gate fees at provincial parks and reintroducing the Gradworks program, which the government cut in 2016.

A Regina restaurant owner, who opened her business in December 2020, said it’s been extremely hard to operate during a city-wide shutdown of dine-in services. She said removing the PST, even temporarily, would make a world of difference for local owners.

"If the government could do that for us, it would help so much, just lowering that little percentage,” Elle Grzeda, owner of Elle’s Café said. "We’ve paid a lot of PST, it’s ten per cent of every sale, so it’s a lot to pay at the end of the month, and it’s a lot especially when you’re just trying to get through the next day."

The Government of Saskatchewan added PST to restaurant meals in 2017.

Jeremy Harrison, Minister of Trade and Export, called the NDPs proposals “a sign of a party that is not serious”. He said his government is not considering implementing any of the suggestions put forward.

“I mean, we have offered very, very significant and real supports for the restaurant sector through this entire pandemic and they would say the same thing,” Harrison said.

Harrison said his government has “allowed these restaurants and bars to operate” and said restaurants outside Regina have been open for dine-in services.

“Restaurant owners are doing all they can to save jobs, but they’re not getting the kind of support they need,” NDP Critic for Economy and Jobs Aleana Young said.

She said that reopening offers an opportunity to bring change to help “rejuvenate” Saskatchewan.

Harrison also said bookings at provincial parks were “through the roof” last summer and he anticipates the same turnout this year.

“People are fully prepared to pay their $10 to get into the park and take advantage of what is a great opportunity,” he said. “That entry fee pays for stuff that is really significant and important services in the park. Making sure our boat launches are up to speed, all of the different services that exist in parks, that's what the entrance fees pay for.”

He mentioned money brought in at provincial parks is significant to local economies.

With files from CTV News Regina's Marc Smith.