Saskatchewan government to present first balanced budget in years

Saskatchewan government to present first balanced budget in years
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REGINA — For the first time in years, the Saskatchewan Party government will present a budget that the finance minister has said is balanced.

Donna Harpauer is to release the province’s 2019-2020 fiscal plan today and she’s said the government will keep its promise to return to the black.

The plan to balance the books was set in motion three years ago under former premier Brad Wall when the province was spending about $1.3 billion more than it was taking in.

The Saskatchewan Party government knocked that figure down by increasing the provincial sales tax and cutting spending.

Harpauer says this budget will contain a small surplus, which has been projected to be $6 million in previous budgets.

The Opposition NDP says it will be watching to make sure the government doesn’t balance the books at a cost to classrooms or by increasing debt at Crown corporations.

A director from the Conference Board of Canada says Saskatchewan’s plan to address its deficit and cut spending has helped the province’s fiscal situation.

“But it also doesn’t add as much stimulus to the economy when you’re holding back on infrastructure spending or government spending,” said Marie-Christine Bernard.

The latest provincial forecast done at the start of February indicates Saskatchewan will see economic growth improve this year.

Since a 2015 recession, Saskatchewan’s economy has been growing at a steady pace, Bernard said.

While there is a strong external demand for potash, agriculture and oil products from Saskatchewan, the provincial economy also faces some challenges, she said.

“We haven’t seen very strong job creation, so very soft domestic demand for consumer goods and the housing market.”

Bernard also cited the closure of uranium mines as another challenge.

Bernard predicts a “gentle increase” in oil prices going forward, although the province is shifting away from resource revenues.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


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