Sask. officials react to the federal budget
REGINA -- The federal government tabled a budget that boasts $101.4 billion in new spending, however the Saskatchewan government says it has been left scrambling for details because the federal government did not provide a technical briefing.
“We have virtually no details,” said Premier Scott Moe.
He said he learned about the details of the federal budget promises through watching television coverage.
Moe said the positives of the federal budget include capital funding to match provincial money for VIDO-InterVac in Saskatoon, money for long-term care and a tax incentive for carbon capture and storage. He added that the province still has questions about specifics.
Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer called the health transfer “disappointing,” adding that there were no additional dollars for mental health.
Harpauer said she has concerns about the flexibility of the federal programs. She said each province is unique and they will be asking for flexibility to make it work for them.
The federal deficit it projected to be $354.2 billion for this year, then decrease to $154.7 billion in the current fiscal year.
“Every Canadian should be concerned about the federal debt. It is significant and it is growing beyond anything that we’ve ever had,” said Harpauer. “We’re not seeing a plan yet of how they attempt to address that in the upcoming years.”
Saskatchewan’s provincial budget projected a record $2.6 billion deficit this year. When asked if her worry about the federal deficit was a double standard, Harpauer said she has concern for both.
“If we could have avoided debt entirely, I would have,” said Harpauer. “But that’s not possible through a pandemic.
Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili singled out the federal investment in childcare as a positive.
“That's something that has been completely lacking in Saskatchewan. We know that childcare is key to getting people back to work, as well as getting kids a healthy, good start. Living in the province that has the worst access to childcare in the entire country, we see how that impedes quality of life for people here,” said Meili.
Harpauer said childcare was a priority over a number of provincial budgets, but they have since shifted to mental health and long-term care. She said the province will be adding childcare spaces in this budget, but the province still has concerns about how they will have to use the federal money.
“My concern is that it doesn’t tie up dollars what we would like to spend elsewhere, such as mental health and addictions. However, we welcome some dollars – we don’t know how much they will be – and we want to see the flexibility, where it could be between actual [childcare] spaces… [or] early learning programming,” said Harpauer.