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Sask. gov't not releasing first-quarter budget update
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, September 29, 2016 11:06AM CST
Last Updated Thursday, September 29, 2016 1:01PM CST
The Saskatchewan government will not release a first-quarter budget update and that has the Opposition accusing the government of hiding the true state of the province's finances.
There's usually a financial update around the end of August for the budget tabled in March.
But this year, the government decided to table the budget in June because the provincial election was held April 4.
Finance Minister Kevin Doherty says that means the budget passed and the first quarter ended at the same time.
"So the numbers that everybody saw, the public saw on June 1st, and were passed in the legislature on June 30, are for all intents and purposes, the first-quarter numbers," said Doherty.
"The second quarter ends, of course tomorrow, on September 30th. And we'll be working diligently to provide our mid-year update, incorporating the first six months of the fiscal year, in our mid-year report coming up sometime later this fall."
Doherty says this fiscal year "is very unusual with the timing of the election and the timing of the budget." The next fiscal year will get back to a regular timetable, he said.
The minister also pointed out that there's no legislative requirement for the government to present a first-quarter financial update.
NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon says in a letter to Premier Brad Wall that eight consecutive finance ministers have released first-quarter updates before the end of August. Wotherspoon calls on Wall to release the numbers in the interest of transparency.
He says the point of periodic updates is to let people know how the budget is doing and "whether it's on track" as it relates to fiscal forecasts and actual spending.
"Lay the numbers on the table. Share with Saskatchewan people," Wotherspoon said Thursday at the legislature in Regina.
"What we know is we have a government that's ramming forward callous cuts that are hurting the most vulnerable."
The NDP says the government didn't release the budget in March because it wanted to conceal its plans from voters ahead of the April provincial election.
The 2016-2017 budget projects a $434 million deficit.
The government is facing a revenue shortfall because of a drop in oil prices and the cost of fighting forest fires last summer.
Low resource prices have also been blamed for a big jump in Saskatchewan's deficit last year. The final audited numbers for the fiscal year that ended in March show a deficit of $675 million -- a big change from the $107-million surplus the government originally predicted.
"I think that people should be aware of the fact that there continues to be pressure on the budget," said Doherty.