Yesterday, Saskatchewan’s Finance Minister, the Honourable Donna Harpauer, introduced the province’s budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Entitled “Growth that Works for Everyone,” the provincial budget projects a $1 billion surplus on $18.7 billion in expenses – an increase of 5.9 per cent over the previous year’s budget, but 2.9 per cent below the revenue the province forecasts for the current fiscal year. This surplus will be crucial to help support Saskatchewan’s growing population that is seeing the largest increase in 108 years with 29,307 people making the province home in 2022 alone. The budget focuses on targeted investments designed to support continued economic growth within the province while addressing program areas of greatest need. Minister Harpauer opened her budget speech by referencing the strong provincial economic and population growth figures and noting that the purpose of growth is to benefit the people of Saskatchewan.
Budget: By the Numbers
Revenue is budgeted to be $19.678 billion for the coming fiscal year. This represents an increase of $2.52 billion (14.7 per cent) from the budget of 2022-23, but a decrease of $584 million from the projections for the current year. Non-renewable resource revenue is forecast to be $3.3 billion, up $435 million over last year’s budget, largely driven by solid potash and oil price expectations. Including last fiscal year, debt retirement and lower borrowing have generated $117 million in annual interest savings.
Budgeted expenditures total $18.660 billion for 2023-24, which represents a $1.040 billion (5.9 per cent) increase from the current year’s budget. However, the $18.660 billion planned expenditure total is an actual decrease of $455 million from forecast for the current year. On a percentage basis Agriculture received the largest budgeted increase of nearly $410 million (up 39.4 per cent). This increase is primarily ($408 million) a result of higher project crop insurance indemnities. With the exception of “general government” and “environment and natural resources” all parts of government will see some increase in budget expenditures in the coming fiscal year.
This budget includes a record planned capital expenditure of $3.7 billion, with a planned total expenditure of more than $15 billion over the next four years. The previous highest level of capital expenditure by the province was $3.2 billion in 2017-18. $2.1 of the $3.7 billion is targeted for investments within the commercial crowns, with the remaining $1.6 billion broken down as follows:
- $443 million for transportation infrastructure;
- $348 million for municipal infrastructure;
- $338 million for healthcare capital;
- $338 million for government services;
- $152 million for education capital (K-12); and
- $59 million for advanced education.
Here are some of the government’s published highlights from the 2023-24 budget:
Investing in People:
- Record level health care funding, including $518 million for mental health and addictions programs and services, and $42.5 million to reduce the surgical waitlist;
- $382.4 million for childcare, reducing child care fees to $10 a day for children under six years of age;
- $39 million increase to support seniors’ care, including $5.5 million for an additional 75 continuing care aide positions; and
- $1.7 billion in record funding for social services and assistance.
Investing in the Economy:
- $38 million in record level funding for agriculture research and innovation;
- $297.9 million in record Municipal Revenue Sharing, part of $503 million of direct provincial support to municipalities;
- $249.1 million of targeted funding for First Nations and Metis people and organizations, which includes funding for economic initiatives and partnerships; and
- $1.4 million to open a trade office in Germany as part of Saskatchewan’s international trade and investment strategy which includes trade offices in Mexico, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, India, Singapore, Vietnam, China, and Japan.
Investing in Capital:
- $337.6 million into healthcare capital including the Prince Albert Victoria Hospital, the Weyburn General Hospital, and long-term care facilities in Grenfell and La Ronge.
- $152.3 million for education capital to support new projects and to support ongoing planning and construction including five new schools and three major renovation projects; and
- $442.9 million into transportation capital including more than 1,000 kilometres of highways improvements.
Today’s budget provided no significant surprises, an essential element in creating a stable environment for growth. No tax increases and no new taxes with an increase of $1 billion in total expenditures is possible because of strong realized growth in 2022 and projected growth in 2023. The government’s commitment to retire $1 billion in operating debt continues its desired path of enabling growth while being fiscally prudent. The government is saving approximately $117 million annually as a result of cumulative operating debt reduction efforts since the conclusion of the 2021-22 fiscal year. While the $1 billion operating debt paydown is good news, the province’s total taxpayer-supported debt is only projected to decrease by approximately $400 million.
The government’s continued effort to avoid an excessive dependence on non-renewable resources (NRR) for operating expenditures is reflected in budget planning for 2023-24. While 2022-23 NRR is expected to reach more than $4.512 billion, the 2023-24 budget only anticipates $3.345 billion from this revenue category. Revenue overall is projected to increase by 14.7 per cent from the current year’s budget, but only 2.9 per cent from the current year’s actual forecast. Meanwhile the underlying economic assumptions used by the provincial government to build the 2023-24 budget are reasonably conservative. Taken together this means it is possible the provincial surplus a year from now – assuming expenditures remain to plan – may be considerably larger than $1 billion.
This good news budget comes after Premier Scott Moe’s latest bout of high approval ratings in the polls and success in passing The Saskatchewan First Act. Moe was given a 60 per cent approval rating in a recent Angus Reid Institute poll- the second highest rating in the country. Poll results show that three out of five people in the province approve of Moe, with 23 per cent strongly approving of him and two per cent strongly disapproving. The major factor contributing to his popularity has been his commitment to the prosperity of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewanians by creating a strong economy, great quality of life and bountiful job opportunities. Throughout his term as Premier and as reflected in this budget, Moe has prioritized the stability of his province over all else.
NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon referred to the government and the budget as tired and out of touch. The opposition critique focused on what they cited as the province’s poor economic performance relative to other jurisdictions, health and education systems that are struggling to address gaps in both front-line workers and in infrastructure, and the cost of living increases that are impacting Saskatchewan citizens. In her first budget cycle as Leader of the Official Opposition, Carla Beck, was also quick to criticize the province for their budget priorities, or lack of, when it comes to healthcare and affordability measures. Beck’s party has called for the province to cut gasoline taxes and pause any increases to utility rates.
Highlights From Each Ministry Can be Found Here:
- Advanced Education – Increased Investment in Post-Secondary Education Expands Training
- Agriculture – Agriculture Budget Supports Innovative, Sustainable and Competitive Industry
- Education – Record $3.1 Billion for Education, Child Care and Libraries
- Energy and Resources – Critical Minerals a Key Focus for Saskatchewan
- Environment – Balancing Stewardship and Economic Growth
- First Nations and Metis Relations – Record Investment in First Nation and Metis Communities
- Government Relations – Record Municipal Revenue Sharing
- Health – More Health Care Workers and Expanded Services
- Health – Record Investment in Mental Health and Addiction Services
- Highways – Highways budget investments prioritize growth
- Immigration and Career Training – Supporting Current and Future Labour Force Needs
- Justice – Community Protection and Improved Justice Services
- Parks, Culture and Sport – Investments in Parks and the Film Industry
- Social Services – Higher Benefits, Enhanced Client Supports
- Trade and Export Development – Increased Investment in International Trade
Detailed information on the 2023-24 Saskatchewan budget, can be found here.