After the timing of the last two budgets was altered by the pandemic, the provincial government is back on schedule with the release of the 2022-23 budget on Wednesday.
Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday the budget is a chance for the province to work toward getting out of deficit budgets and eventually back into balance.
“I think it’s a very large budget. This is a budget for us as we find our way through COVID to a much more normalized environment, to allow us to get the province’s finances back on track.
Moe said the government would also focus on “public investment”.
“You’re going to see that investment, especially in health care and in human resources, in the people who provide health care in our facilities.”
He said it was important for the government to allow “Saskatchewan communities to participate in this economic recovery.”
Moe said the budget will also emphasize capital investments “to deliver the public services, highways, schools and hospitals that communities expect to be continually invested in.”
Last year, the provincial government estimated its deficit at a record $2.6 billion. The projection then jumped to $2.7 billion in last November’s mid-year update.
Moe has hinted in recent days that his government wants to pay down operating debt. In 2009, the total public debt was only $7.9 billion. Since then, it has nearly tripled to over $23 billion.
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer hinted that spending would be modest.
In recent weeks, Harpauer noted that rising commodity prices had a potential impact on the province’s budget and projections.
Harpauer said last November the government remained committed to restoring balance by 2026-27.
Opposition calls for zero tax increase
Opposition finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said Monday that one thing the provincial government cannot do is raise taxes, especially with projected revenue increases.
“This government shouldn’t be raising taxes on Saskatchewan people,” Wotherspoon said.
“[Resource] incomes have skyrocketed in Saskatchewan. The unforgivable invasion in Ukraine has seen many of these revenues skyrocket.”
Wotherspoon said the provincial government should provide relief to Saskatchewan residents who are seeing the cost of living rise due to rising fuel prices and other related costs.
“What we need is some relief for the people of Saskatchewan.”
He said the government needed to invest in health care and classrooms, two areas affected by the pandemic.
“We need to get our children’s learning back on track.”
Wotherspoon said the government must also fund mental health and addictions services.