The spring sitting of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly began today with the unveiling of the 2021-22 Saskatchewan Budget entitled, “Protect. Build. Grow.” The provincial budget will “invest in Saskatchewan people and ensure that the government protects, builds, and grows the province this year and well into the future.” This is the second “pandemic budget” Finance Minister Donna Harpauer has delivered, however, technically, the 2020-21 budget was a scaled-back fiscal update that excluded revenue projections due to COVID-19 uncertainty.
As expected, the 2021-22 budget contains a large deficit of $2.6 billion. The province’s fiscal path is projected to steadily improve over the next three years with smaller deficits of $1.7 billion in 2022-23, $1.2 billion in 2023-24, and $770 million in 2024-25. A return to balance is expected in 2026-27. Minister Harpauer had hinted recently that that a slower than expected economic recovery likely means that the government will not balance the budget by the 2024-25 budget cycle, which is a promise they campaigned on during the recent provincial election.
Saskatchewan’s real GDP is forecast to grow 3.4 per cent in 2021 but follows a projected 4.2 per cent contraction in 2020. Revenue is forecast at $14.5 billion in 2021-22, with most revenue categories forecast to increase compared to the latest 2020-21 forecast. Expense of $17.1 billion is projected, an increase of $1.0 billion compared to last year’s budget.
Total public debt, including Crown corporation debt, is projected to be $27.8 billion at March 31, 2022 – up $4.2 billion compared to last year. Borrowing in Budget 2021-22 will be for operations and new capital investment to build hospitals, schools, highways, and municipal and Crown infrastructure. Saskatchewan’s net debt-to-GDP ratio will remain among the lowest in Canada.
Here are a few highlights from the Provincial Budget 2021-22:
- $1.5 billion to help protect Saskatchewan lives and livelihoods in the fight against COVID-19, following a $2.0 billion investment last year. A further $1.3 billion of support is in place for the next two years, for a multi-year commitment of $4.8 billion.
- This year’s record health budget of $6.54 billion – up $359 million or 5.8 per cent from last year – will strengthen the provincial health care system to protect families and communities. A $90 million increase in this budget will support Saskatchewan’s comprehensive COVID response.
- Education spending across government is $3.75 billion in the 2021-22 Budget, up more than $391 million, or 11.6 per cent compared to last year. This includes spending on pre-K to Grade 12 education, post-secondary education, and career training programs and commissions.
- The 2021-22 Budget provides social services and assistance with $1.56 billion, up more than $66 million, or 4.5 per cent, compared to last year.
- This year’s budget provides more than $845 million for the protection of Saskatchewan persons and property, up $38.6 million, or 4.8 per cent, compared to last year. This includes $92.4 million for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, which is committed to the protection of people, property and resources across the province. The agency is coordinating the province’s non-health COVID response through its Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.
- $3.1 billion of planned capital spending to stimulate the economy and create jobs.
- Record funding for workforce development of more than $39 million to strengthen Saskatchewan’s recovery from the pandemic. Nearly $18 million is being provided for Employment Assistance for Persons with Disabilities, to remove barriers, provide supports and develop the skills people need to fully participate in the labour force.
- A number of changes that will improve tax fairness – including taxation of vapour products and heat-not-burn tobacco products, as well as a road use fee for electric vehicles at the time of registration to ensure that all road users contribute to road maintenance and replacement.
Highlights from each Ministry can be found here:
- Advanced Education – $60 Million Investment To Address Pandemic Challenges In Post-Secondary Education
- Agriculture – Increased Investments in Agriculture Sector Will Build Industry Growth and Support Producers
- Education – Record $2.66 Billion Education Budget Protects Classrooms, Builds Schools And Grows Child Care Capacity
- Education – 2021 Education Property Tax Mill Rates Set
- Energy and Resources – Growing A Strong Natural Resource Sector
- Environment – Environment Budget Focuses on Protecting People and Our Resources
- Finance – $3.1 Billion In Capital Spending To Build Saskatchewan
- First Nations and Metis Relations – Supporting Economic Growth And Recovery In Indigenous Communities
- Government Relations – Building And Protecting Communities Through Strong Municipal Investments
- Health – Budget 2021-22 Continues To Build Upon Record Investments In Saskatchewan Health Care
- Health – Record Investments In Mental Health And Addictions Will Protect The Health Of Saskatchewan Residents
- Highways – $830 Million Budget Protects And Builds Our Highways System
- Immigration and Career Training – Record Funding To Protect And Build A Strong Labour Force
- Innovation Sask – Growing A Strong Economy Through Innovation
- Justice – Building Safer Communities, Protecting Saskatchewan People
- Parks, Culture and Sport – Parks, Culture and Sport Budget Builds on Government’s Commitment to Families, Veterans and Park Infrastructure
- Public Safety – Budget Invests In Public Safety To Continue Protecting Saskatchewan
- SaskBuilds and Procurement – Building, Growing and Protecting a Strong Saskatchewan Through Infrastructure, Procurement, IT Security and Air Ambulance
- Social Services – Protecting And Supporting Saskatchewan’s Most Vulnerable
- Trade and Export Development – Strong Economic Recovery Through Growing Trade And Investment
Saskatchewan NDP Leader, Ryan Meili, recently outlined what his party would like to see implemented in the budget, including paid sick leave, phasing in $15 per hour minimum wage, and the removal of PST on construction labour and restaurant meals. Meili and Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon called today’s budget “…out of touch with the needs of Saskatchewan families, businesses and communities…” The NDP further pointed out that the Sask Party government broke two key campaign commitments: to hire 300 more continuing care aides in the long-term care sector, and to balance the budget by 2024. While it is no surprise that the NDP are not on side with Budget 2021-22, they say that the Sask Party are failing to show leadership in containing the pandemic and that their weak half-measures are putting people further behind.
Delivered on the third anniversary of the Humboldt Bronco’s bus crash, and on a day when Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 numbers remain high and ICU rates are causing significant concern, the Saskatchewan Government delivered a sombre, risk-averse budget that aims at causing the least waves in all areas of government. We did not see any new major announcements but saw the Sask Party government fulfill all their campaign commitments, except for balancing the budget by 2024-25.
In these times of uncertainty, the government delivered a budget that focuses on spending in critical areas; health spending to manage the on-going COVID-19 pandemic; infrastructure spending to help keep the economy running; and a number of incentives to help support people now and help stimulate the economy as it emerges from the current situation. As people look for stability, they want to know that there is a steady hand at the helm, and this budget delivered on that. When Scott Moe took over the leadership of the Sask Party in 2018, he was the leadership candidate that offered the least departure from what people have come to expect of the Sask Party, which is a Party that doesn’t promise too much or too little, but quietly goes about its business making sure that the fundamentals are being taking care of and that Saskatchewan residents know that their future is secure.
Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan continues to be the roadmap of this government’s vision for the future and this was once again confirmed by Minister Harpauer’s direct mention of in the budget: “As Saskatchewan emerges from the pandemic, our government remains committed to the Growth Plan goals of a strong economy, a growing province and new jobs over the next decade.”
The Assembly will debate the budget motion and any amendment for up to five sitting days. Once the budget motion is adopted, the legislative committees will continue the review process by examining the estimates in detail.
Due to COVID-19, safety protocols will once again be in place this session, including a two-metre gap between desks and Plexiglas shield installed on all desks. While all cabinet ministers are expected in the chamber, only 50 percent of MLAs will be in the chamber at one time. The spring session will last for 30 days, and unlike normal proceedings, will run Monday to Friday in order to be completed on May 14.
For more information on the 2021-22 Saskatchewan Budget, please click here.