'Pandemic deficit': Sask. reveals $2.4B in losses with record spending on health
REGINA -- The Government of Saskatchewan’s 2020-21 budget shows a focus on health and economic supports made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three months since revealing temporary fiscal numbers without any revenue forecasts, the province forecasts a deficit of $2.4 billion.
The province was headed for a balanced budget in March which was upended in a matter of days as a result of COVID-19.
Public debt will rise by $3 billion in 2020-21. The government says $1.9 billion of that is attributable to COVID-19. The remaining $1.1 billion finances infrastructure projects in the government’s capital plan, which were developed prior to the pandemic. This increase will grow the total public debt to $24.37 billion.
“This is a pandemic deficit, not a structural deficit,” Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said in a news release. “Prior to the pandemic, Saskatchewan was on track for balanced budgets last year and this year, and I am confident that as Saskatchewan’s economy recovers, our revenues will also recover and we will get back to balance in the coming years without having to cut programs and services.”
The province reported a revenue forecast of $13.6 billion, down $1.2 billion a result of COVID-19 and the collapse of oil prices.
The Government of Saskatchewan projected revenue at $1 billion for non-renewable resources. This figure is down $753 million, or 43 per cent.
The government says expenses of $16.1 billion include the $14.2 billion allocated to ministries and agencies announced earlier this year, as well as $1.3 billion in expenses from “other government entities”.
More than $700 million has been allocated toward pandemic-related expenses, and a health and safety contingency of $200 million has been put in place.
A record $6.18 billion has been allocated toward health spending as the province continues to manage necessary costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020-21 budget includes more than $900 million in new pandemic supports.
NDP opposition leader Ryan Meili told reporters on Monday that the Sask Party government has “no plan to recover from” the economic hit that has followed the global pandemic.
“We’re seeing the worst economic downturn that any of us have lived through,” Meili said.
He criticized the province’s budget for lacking investment in seniors, long-term care, childcare and struggling families. Meili also brought attention to the lack of prediction beyond March 2021, saying “they’re not talking about what they’re really planning to do.”
“There no indication of what they’ll cut to get back to surplus,” he said. “An NDP government will not be raising taxes on Saskatchewan working families, we will not tax our way out of a recession.”
Ministry of Health: $5.8 billion, a $255 million increase from the 2019-20 budget. Hospital equipment, testing gear, PPE and operating costs will take up $118 million. Mental health and addictions funding make up around 7.5 per cent, or $435 million of the Ministry of Health budget.
Ministry of Education: $3.36 billion, up $79.4 million from the 2019-20 budget. A total of $20 million of the $42 million in operating funds for schools will fund the teachers’ ratified collective bargaining agreement. $88 million for new school projects including a joint-use elementary school in Harbour Landing in Regina, a joint-use consolidation of St. Peter, St. Michael and Imperial schools in Regina. New School projects include St. Frances Elementary School in Saskatoon, the consolidation of Princess Alexandra, King George and Pleasant Hill schools in Saskatoon and a new consolidated elementary and high school in Carrot River.
Municipal supports: $571.3 million for municipalities, which is a result of 31.4 per cent increase in municipal revenue sharing as well as the introduction of the Municipal Economic Enhancement Program worth $150 million.
Ministry of Social Services: A four per cent increase in funding with $1.49 billion. Child and family services will see a $30 million bump in funding. A $50 payment has been announced for all adult income assistance recipients.
Capital spending: $3.1 billion, with this being the first of a two-year $7.5 billion capital plans to invest in schools, hospitals, highways, Crown utility projects, municipal infrastructure and other project to help stimulate the economy.