Provincial budget provides the province a way to get their provincial finances back on track

The Government of Saskatchewan released its 2022-23 budget as they tried to get the province ‘Back on Track.’

The province will be running a deficit of $463 million as they are investing $17.6 billion in expenses and are estimating $17.2 billion in revenue.

Premier Scott Moe said that this budget marks the march back to a balanced budget as the province gets their provincial finances back on track.

On the revenue side, the province has expanded the PST as it will now be applied to admission and entertainment charges. That includes sporting events, concerts, museums, fairs, gym memberships, and green fees, effective October 1 of this year.

Moe explained why they felt it was time to expand the PST.

“We did expand the PST to some other areas where GST is already being charged, most certainly, we did this with some hesitation, but we also use those dollars to fund our surgical initiative. Some of those revenues coming from this PST expansion to provide that surgical initiative.”

“I don’t think we ever want to expand,” he continued. “We want to reduce taxes here in the province, but we also want to take a very balanced approach with respect to what reliance we have on natural resource royalties here in the province, with the reliance that we have on all of the revenue streams that we have available to the Government of Saskatchewan.”

Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer said when it comes to the expansion of the PST, she felt it is something Saskatchewan people will want.

“I do think Saskatchewan people want to see a stable base to their government’s budgets going forward,” she said. “We are not knee-jerk reacting to the price of oil each and every year. It will generate annual a little over 20 million dollars and our surgical weight list initiative is also a little over 20 million dollars. If I said to Saskatchewan residents, would you be willing to pay this in order to address the surgical waitlist, I think Saskatchewan people would support that.”

Despite calls from the Offical Opposition and other organizations on the budget making life less affordable for Saskatchewan residents, the Premier believes they have done the opposite.

“This budget is making life much more affordable for Saskatchewan people,” he said. “A family of four is about at a $100,000 income level is actually paying $2,000 less in tax today than they were 15 years ago.

The Premier pointed to initiatives like removing 100,000 people from provincial tax roles, the homebuyer grants and the graduate retention program as some ways the Government has made life more affordable.

On the investment side, healthcare was the big focus, with $6.8 billion being invested. The Premier listed what he felt were the big takeaways from their healthcare investment.

“Investment in things like healthcare expansion, the surgical wait time initiative that was announced, the expansion of our ICU capacity, the expansion of training and recruitment and retention opportunities that we have to ensure that we are offering all of the serviced we normally would in all our urban centres, but ensuring that we are doing that in all of the rural facilities.”

Harpauer said their goal was to prioritize healthcare in this year’s budget.

“I think there were shortfalls due to the pandemic that we felt we needed to prioritize and address.”

She noted in creating this year’s budget, she was surprised to see how quickly the province’s economy was starting to bounce back from the pandemic.

“Revenues are strengthening that we didn’t anticipate a year ago when we were in the heat of the pandemic, and the economy had taken a huge dive.”

She said though the province is seeing strong revenues, she believes it’s important the Government doesn’t put all of its eggs in one basket.

“Let’s not go into the trap that we’ve been in the past, which is to become totally reliant on resource revenue. Right now, those resource revenues are extremely high, and we don’t know how long that will last. There is a number of factors driving those prices, and they are not going to hold forever.”

More from Play92