SASKATOON, REGINA — Provincial revenues are higher than forecast, according to the 2021-22 public account releases Thursday.
The province is now reporting a deficit of $1.47 billion at year end, which is an improvement over what had been projected in the 2021-22 budget by $1.14 billion.
Public Accounts 2021-22 Volume 1 indicated higher potash and oil prices resulted in higher non-renewable resource revenue, and higher personal income, corporate income and sales tax revenue. The total revenue of $18.14 billion, up $3.66 billion from the 2021-22 budget. Non-renewable resource revenue also increased $2.92 billion in 2021-22, up $1.59 billion compared to the budget forecast.
"Saskatchewan's improvement through the fiscal year, and our government's strong financial plan has the province back on track," Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said in a statement. "Our public debt at year end was $529 million lower than budgeted, as government needed to borrow less, largely due to a lower deficit."
However, the good news on the revenue front will not mean immediate relief for those struggling with affordability issues including rising fuel and food prices. Harpauer indicated to reporters in Saskatoon Thursday morning that the government was not likely to look at relief until the fall, after getting feedback during the summer.
Wotherspoon blasts government
At the legislature Thursday, the contents of the public accounts release were blasted by NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon, who criticized the government for not providing relief to Saskatchewan residents.
“What we see here is affirmation that the Sask. Party government has been dishonest with Saskatchewan people,” said Wotherspoon, in “trying to excuse their inexcusable inaction when it comes to the historic cost of living crisis that Saskatchewan people face.”
He said the public accounts “made crystal clear that the Sask. Party government is flush on windfall revenues, that they’ve misled Saskatchewan people as to the true state of our finances and our windfall revenues to the tune of $500 million.”
Wotherspoon pointed to food prices and $2-a-litre gas prices as he again called for a cost of living and fuel relief rebate, to suspend the fuel tax for the summer, and to scrap the planned expansion of the PST to gyms and entertainment and live sports venues.
Regarding the Sask. Party plans to push back a decision on relief until the fall, Wotherspoon was critical of Premier Scott Moe and the government for “continuing to delay and kick the can down the road,” and called it “inexcusable” that the government was “suggesting now that they are going to respond possibly in the fall.”
Wotherspoon was also critical of the timing of the public accounts release.
“Here we are the day before the Canada Day long weekend, with no notice from the government that the Vol. 1 was coming today,” said Wotherspoon. “The goal of the Sask. Party is to hope no one sees this or covers this.”