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Harpauer hints at what to expect in tomorrow’s budget

Harpauer says budget will reflect strong financial position of province, with “aggressive” health spending and targeted relief to most vulnerable.
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer speaks to reporters on the eve of presenting the budget tomorrow.

REGINA - “Growth that works for everyone” is the theme of the 2023-24 budget that Finance Minister Donna Harpauer will present on Wednesday afternoon in the Saskatchewan legislature.

Harpauer met reporters Tuesday afternoon for the delivery of the budget books at the Legislature in advance of the presentation of the budget tomorrow. While not going into specifics of what the budget will contain in terms of numbers, the finance minister did drop some broad hints. 

“I think you’re going to see a budget tomorrow that reflects that the province is still very strong in its finances and is in a strong financial position,” Harpauer said. 

“And you’re going to see the government is still mindful, however, that there is inflationary pressures on people in the province.”

She pointed out that previously the government had issued $500 affordability tax credit cheques issued to everyone over 18. In this budget, Harpauer said there will be “targeted supports that isn’t necessarily for everyone.”

These would be targeted towards the most vulnerable — those of lower income or with disabilities, and low income seniors. She did point out everyone does benefit from the reductions of personal income taxes made over the years.

Harpauer also said there would be a “very strong and aggressive health budget to address the pressures that we are all hearing in health, not just in the major centres but also across Saskatchewan in our rural and remote areas.”

When asked if there would be any new taxes in the budget Harpauer said “I’m going to preempt the budget and say no.”

When further asked if there would be tax cuts, Harpauer also said no.

Harpauer also told reporters debt reduction remains a priority for the government. She said the operating debt has always been a concern for her and they were able to write that down by a billion dollars last year. “I hope we can continue to write that down, in particular because we accumulated more debt through COVID as did each and every province.”

On whether this would be a budget the public would be pleased with, Harpauer said “you know, there’s always going to be those who want more somewhere. But overall, I think every area that government has support for will see increases. We’ll see what the public thinks when they see it tomorrow.”

Wotherspoon comments

In pre-budget comments at the Legislature, Opposition Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon pointed to the affordability issues Saskatchewan residents are facing in outlining his expectations for the budget.

He pointed in particular to windfall revenues the province is sitting on, and contrasted that with the situation for Saskatchewan residents.

"It's been a period of terrible hardship, terrible cost of living increases add a whole lot of vulnerability for local businesses and households out there. So we're calling on this government to step up in a meaningful way, and to address the cost of living that's causing so much hardship for Saskatchewan people. It's not fair for the province to enjoy record windfall revenues, but for families to be struggling to keep their heads above water, or to be forced into situations of being delinquent in a mortgage payment or losing a home. There needs to be meaningful relief."

Weatherspoon also called on the province to "step up to the real crisis in healthcare" and "make the investment that's needed in healthcare to ensure that families and people have access to doctors, to sure that hospitals aren't in a constant state of bypass, to make sure that people have the care they need where they need it when they need it."

The Opposition critic also wanted to see investment in education to "address way more than the status quo" to reduce class sizes and provide more supports, and also to "create good jobs that people can count on." Wotherspoon also repeated his call to have the PST removed on construction labour.

"This is a time when we need projects and investment to move forward. We need to create those good jobs and retain Saskatchewan workers in this province."

Minister Harpauer is scheduled to present the budget Wednesday at around 2:15 p.m. Central time.