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Saskatchewan’s budget set to be handed down Wednesday

Budget preview: what we know and don’t know about the 2023-24 provincial budget to be delivered by Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer.
Donna Harpauer Aug. 23
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer is seen presenting the 2022 Q1 fiscal update at the radio room of the legislature on Aug. 23 last year. Will the budget on March 22 bring more good fiscal news to the province?

REGINA - All eyes of the province will be on the Saskatchewan Legislature on Wednesday afternoon.

The 2023-24 provincial budget is scheduled to be delivered in the Legislature Wednesday around 2:15 p.m. by Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer. 

We won’t know the full details about the budget until Wednesday when Harpauer rises in the House, but there have been a few hints dropped in the meantime. Here is a look at what to look for.

Budget preview — what to expect and questions to be answered:

  • The expectation is this will be a surplus budget, following the announcement last August by Minister Harpauer that the books had returned to balanced. In fact, it will be a major story if this didn’t happen again this time.
    In their second quarter update last November, the provincial surplus for 2022-23 was forecast at $1.1 billion, which was up $50.1 million from the first quarter projection in August.
  • It’s widely assumed the recent strong performance of natural resource revenues will continue to boost the province’s coffers. The main question is how much will it actually be this time, and also what will be the impact of inflation on expenditures.
  • The other question is how much of a impact was the recent auction of SLGA liquor store permits, which brought in an estimated haul of $45 million to the province.
  • With a surplus widely expected, the question becomes whether the government will move further on affordability concerns by fully removing the PST on events and construction, or opt for other relief options that could be available. There have also been calls in recent months to suspend the gas tax, something the government has so far resisted. Last August, the fiscal update was highlighted by news the province would distribute $500 tax credit cheques to all Saskatchewan residents over age 18.
  • On the flip side, people will also want to watch to see if any new taxes are announced in the budget.
  • A close eye on Budget Day will be on what further spending the government plans to do on health care to address backlogs and staffing shortages. Already in recent days, the province has announced an increase to the Physician Incentive Program up to $200,000 to attract and retain more family physicians to rural and northern communities.
  • A close eye will also be on announcements in the budget of major capital projects for hospitals and schools, as well as the annual road construction projects for 2023-24.

What we already know about the 2023-24 budget:

  • Money is coming to fund operations of second stage shelters. That news was confirmed during Question Period by Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre back on March 8. Afterwards, Eyre told reporters “we felt that it was an important signal on this day, on International Women's Day, to let the people know in the province that we were looking at this in the budget, that it's going to be forthcoming in the budget in terms of additional funding.” The specific amount of funding is not known yet. 
  • Additional money is coming for municipalities, as outlined by Premier Scott Moe at the recent Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention in Saskatoon. Moe told SARM delegates that funding of $298 million, an increase of 13 per cent, will be coming in municipal revenue sharing this year.
  • Additional money for the Saskatchewan Assured Income Disability (SAID) and other programs in Social Services was confirmed Monday by Minister Gene Makowsky in the legislature, in response to numerous SAID recipients who were in attendance at the legislature that afternoon. In Question Period on Monday, Minister Makowsky said: “We understand there are challenges, and in just a couple of days, we’ll be able to make some important announcements on increases to many of the programs within the Ministry of Social Services. “
  • On the SAID program Premier Moe said in Question Period Monday: “You’re going to see increases to the investment that we have in that program to ensure that in this province, those that are living with a disability have the very best life they can in the nation of Canada.”
  • It was confirmed that at least some affordability measures will again be in the budget. During Question Period on Monday, Moe said the following: “Mr. Speaker, as has been said many times in this Assembly, each and every budget year this government invests about $2 billion in affordability measures for Saskatchewan families, many targeted at Saskatchewan families that are of a low income, Mr. Speaker.”
  • Premier Moe also said: “And so most certainly as we look to the budget — just two more sleeps until we’ll get to the provincial budget for this year, Mr. Speaker — not only are you going to see continued investment in affordability measures for Saskatchewan people, Saskatchewan families, but you’re going to see additional investments as well, Mr. Speaker, in just a short couple of days, investments that I would invite all that have joined us here today to make note of on budget day.”