On Wednesday, March 23, the Government of Saskatchewan released the 2022-23 Budget, which Finance Minister Donna Harpauer noted, shows “Saskatchewan is back on track. We are seeing strong economic growth and job creation as we come out of the pandemic and as a result, the provincial’s financial outlook has improved significantly.”
Harpauer also stated that, “The deficit has been reduced by over $2.0 billion. Our economy is growing, with 30,000 new jobs created over the past year and the second highest rate of job growth in Canada so far in 2022. Our finances will steadily improve, and we are on track to balance as a result of careful management of spending and prudent revenue forecasts.”
According to Martensville-Warman MLA Terry Jenson, this is a budget that gets Saskatchewan back on track following two years of incredible uncertainty. “We are making substantial investments in key areas that will benefit the people of Saskatchewan and build on the economic momentum we have been experiencing for the last number of months as we continue moving into the stage of living with Covid in our everyday lives,” Jenson said.
The 2022-23 Budget saw a $463 million deficit forecast, which is a $2.1 billion improvement from last year’s budget and there is a goal to eliminate that deficit by 2026-27. Revenue of $17.2 billion is forecast in the 2022-23 Budget, which is up $2.7 billion from last year’s budget and non-renewable resource revenue is projected to be $2.9 billion, up from $1.6 billion last year. This is largely due to higher potash and oil price forecasts because of expected global demand.
Job growth continues to be a priority in Saskatchewan, and according to Jenson, over $13.5 billion of private investment has been made in the last year with companies such as BHP Biliton, Richardson International, Viterra, Federated Co-operatives, and Cargill all committing to new facilities or expanded operations in the areas of canola crushing, potash, and biodiesel production.
A record investment into health care will be made in an effort to reduce surgical wait times, increase hospital beds and recruit more physicians and health care workers into places they are most needed.
Locally, MLA Terry Jenson plans to continue his work with the Minister of Rural and Remote Health to address the shortage of physicians within Martensville and Warman. “This budget includes the establishment of a new agency dedicated to recruiting and retaining health care workers as well as $3.5 million specifically for physician recruitment and retention initiatives, primarily targeting family physicians to work in rural areas of the province. Other solutions to the doctor shortage affecting our area are also being actively pursued with the Ministry to quickly increase the number of physicians in our two cities,” Jenson said.
With a $277 million increase from last year, a record investment has been made to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, which includes an aggressive plan to have surgical wait times return to pre-COVID levels by the end of March 2025.
Additionally, $470 million will be invested into mental health and addictions programs and services to fund initiatives such as effective counselling and treatments, as well as introducing further proactive measures.
Following the release of the 2022-23 Budget, the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation stated that they were disappointed with the announcement, and it would therefore result in more than a 3 percent cut to the K-12 operational spending; however, Jenson stated that the Saskatchewan government is investing more than ever into the education system.
“Education spending across government is $3.8 billion in this budget, up more than $47.2 million, or 1.3 per cent, over last year,” stated Jenson. A plan to hire 200 more full-time educational assistants across the province, as well as the creation of over 6,000 new child-care spaces is planned to the 2022-23 fiscal year, with a goal to reach 28,000 spaces over the course of five years. “The budget also fully covers increases in the collective agreement for teachers’ salaries and also increases operating funding to each school division by $24.9 million over the previous year. Our government will continue to make education among our province’s highest priorities in the coming year as well as in the years ahead.”
Another record investment this year is $3.2 billion for capital projects in the province. These projects include urgent care centres in Saskatoon and Regina, construction at the Prince Albert Victoria Hospital and the Weyburn General Hospital and more. Additionally, improvements on provincial highways will be made, including work towards the Growth Plan to upgrade and build
10,000 kilometres of the provincial highway network by 2030. There are also investments being made to plan and construct 15 new schools and renovate five existing schools.
Saskatchewan continues the path to reconciliation and in doing so, will be providing more economic opportunities for Indigenous communities and people through the creation of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation (SIIFC). “This new entity will provide up to $75 million in loan guarantees for private sector Indigenous investments in natural resource and value-added agricultural projects,” Jenson stated.
The Saskatchewan government will also be providing $10 million in grants to kick-start the film and television industry in Saskatchewan now that quality Canadian content is in high demand thanks to the surge in streaming services. Only Saskatchewan labour, goods and services are eligible for support under this program to ensure grant dollars stay in our province.
As of October 1, 2022, PST will be applied to sporting events, concerts, museums, fairs, movies, gym memberships, green fees, and other areas. The existing application of PST is being broadened to match the federal GST base for admissions and entertainment events and according to the budget, will add an estimated $10.5 million in revenue this year and $21 million annually.
“What’s important to remember is that while the PST is being expanded to some new areas that impact discretionary spending, our government has made life more affordable in other ways. Power bills were reduced by 10 per cent in 2021, SaskTel waived data overages for several months during the pandemic, we signed an agreement a few months ago to reduce childcare to $10 a day, and Saskatchewan continues to have one of the highest tax-free thresholds in the country. A family of four pays no income tax on their first $52,250 of income. In the 2021-22 budget year, our government put an estimated $2.4 billion into the pockets of Saskatchewan citizens thanks to a multitude of programs that makes life more affordable for every person in this province,” Jenson explained.
The Saskatchewan government will be investing $262 million into Municipal Revenue Sharing Grants in 2022, which Jenson noted will help lay the foundation for stronger communities and a stronger Saskatchewan. Municipal revenue sharing is based on a percentage of the PST being divided equally among all Saskatchewan municipalities and from there, community Councils can decide where to put that money based on what they feel is most needed.
Jenson explained that, “When we formed government in 2007, municipal revenue sharing for Martensville was $506,625 using the previous formula under the NDP. In this upcoming year, the city will receive over $1.9 million, which represents an increase of over 276 per cent since 2007 when we formed government. The municipal revenue sharing program provides municipalities with fair and predictable funding each year while also ensuring communities are largely unrestricted in what the money can be used for.”
“Our economy is gaining momentum as the world emerges from the Covid pandemic and Saskatchewan has what the world needs with food, fuel, and fertilizer. Our province is in a tremendous position to provide all of these products and more, and with that comes good paying jobs and careers, and an even better quality of life for everyone in Saskatchewan,” stated Jenson.