Province looking to bounce back after deficit increase in Q1, NDP says more support needed for producers

Saskatchewan’s Finance Minister says despite a devastating drought, the province is looking to bounce back in the second quarter of its new budget.

Minister Donna Harpauer says the $126 million increase posted in the first quarter is due to an unforeseen amount of support needed for the agricultural sector.

She says if it wasn’t for the drought, the province would’ve seen decent gains this quarter.

“All other indicators in our budget, however, are extremely strong. Our resources revenues are up considerably, and we have additional transfers from the federal government,” said Harpauer. “That means that we are not absorbing the entire cost that the agriculture disaster is creating.”

When asked how this year’s drought will affect the budget next year, Harpauer says she hopes it’s just a bad year.

Harpauer says the financial impact of the drought has been detrimental to the budget.

“Devastating. I’ve always said, every time I introduce a budget, I hold my breath until that crop is in the bin,” said Harpauer. “And knowing that it’s been a couple of years since we’ve had a really high crop insurance claim, the last one would have been 2002. It was due, but you never want to see it happen.”

Harpauer says the ag industry is a resilient one, and it will be back leading the province in no time.

NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon says the deficit increase is not the problem, it’s the lack of leadership the government has shown throughout the summer.

“What we see with this government, what we see in this financial report, is we see a government missing in action, we see a government that’s taken the summer off,” said Wotherspoon. “We see a financial report that doesn’t rise to the occasion with the challenges we face across Saskatchewan.”

He says the government needs to prioritize supporting producers, who Wotherspoon says might not have farms left after this drought.

He says if those supports aren’t there now, the financial impact will be far greater in the long run.

“The response of the provincial government has in fact been inadequate to the challenge that folks face,” said Wotherspoon. “Crops that have been devastated, livestock producers that have no access to feed, that didn’t have access to water and had poisoned water, and that were having to sell off cattle. Which sets back our industry in a huge way.”

The provincial deficit now sits at $2.74 billion.

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