Sask. Party still running deficit, taking it out on students and programs

The Sask. Party government admitted Monday that it’s still running a deficit budget – and with cuts in health care already rolling out, the Sask. Party announced Monday it’s chopping at education to try to make up the difference.

The government is reporting an operating deficit of $262 million, not including $700 million in borrowing. The reported deficit would have been $402 million, but that number was softened by a change to accounting practices. By aligning the fiscal year-ends of Crown corporations with core government operations, the government is including an additional three months of Crown revenues in this year's budget.

“It’s pretty shocking that after a decade of record, windfall revenues and unprecedented resource boom, all it took was a few softer months for the Sask. Party to plunge us into deficit,” said NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon. “If only they hadn't drained our rainy day fund, if only they had saved a bit of money and diversified our economy, then the impact of this drop in commodity prices wouldn't be so harsh for Saskatchewan families.

“But we're not only experiencing the consequences of those bad choices, we're now seeing the Sask. Party make even more bad choices in how they're addressing this deficit.  They're taking it out on everyday Saskatchewan families – the front-line health care we should be able to count on, our kids’ classrooms and our universities and colleges. They’re also going old-school and planning to sell off money-making assets like 40 liquor stores.”

Having already cut in many areas that matter to Saskatchewan families, including the surgical budget, the Sask. Party’s newest choices for cuts include:

  • $6.2 million cut from Kindergarten to Grade 12 education, including operational and program funding while classrooms are already overcrowded, teachers and educational assistants are being cut and programs like supervised lunch hours and busing routes are being cancelled.
  • $16.7 million cut from universities and colleges, including millions in operating funding and millions that was supposed to maintain and repair the schools.
  • $7.1 million cut from employment programs.
  • $12.5 million cut from social services, which cares for vulnerable children and adults with disabilities.

The NDP’s alternate proposals for waste elimination include:

  • A significant reduction to the $120 million per year in private consultants.
  • Redeploying the $20 million currently funding the Lean program's 15 Kaizen Promotion Offices and the $12 million currently devoted to the 100 full-time staff on the health care payroll whose only job is to promote the toxic John Black Lean program.
  • Eliminating millions in promotion and public relations for the $1.5-billion carbon capture and storage project, which is still not operating even close to full capacity.
  • Restricting government expenses including discretionary travel and ministry advertising, including eliminating the premier's travel scouts, who try out luxury hotels and VIP lounges in advance of Brad Wall’s foreign trips.

“The Sask. Party is still wasting far too much of our money on their misplaced priorities,” said Wotherspoon. “On top of things like massive increases in consultants, the Lean program, the carbon capture boondoggle, and costly travel scouts, we've seen millions go up in smoke because of the Sask. Party's smart meter fiasco, we've lost huge profits because they sold off the Information Services Corporation, we're seeing billions leave our province because the Sask. Party keeps handing contracts to foreign corporations, and they've even added three more MLAs at a cost of millions.

“We can't afford more of this waste and misplaced priorities. Saskatchewan people deserve so much better.”

Wotherspoon said the government’s mid-year outlook is unlikely to hold, since revenue projections including $49-per-barrel oil and other resource projections are likely overly rosy.

He added that a third-quarter update should be not only released, but audited and signed off by the provincial auditor before the provincial election.