There’s a bit more in the provincial bank but not enough to cover the financial hole Saskatchewan is in.
The mid-year financial report was released by government Monday morning. It shows falling oil prices and the cost of fighting wildfires is still putting the province in the red by $262 million.
The government has been able to make some financial improvements since the first-quarter financials were released in August. The province has been able to save $30 million by cutting spending.
Through efforts with vacancy management or surpluses that remain untouched, the government found savings of $107 million. That was offset by an increase in expenses, largely in social services.
As this is only mid-year, Finance Minister Kevin Doherty is still hopeful he can make up the shortfall in time for the financial year end, in March.
“My goal as the minister of finance, the direction from premier and cabinet, is to do everything we possibly can to get to balance,” he said. “I’m not sure we can get there or not.”
Economists report the global and provincial outlook looks better next year, but these are the figures government will take to you this election.
“The external economic forecasters are predicting a rebound in 2016, we don’t know if and when that is going to take hold. If oil prices start to strengthen between now and the end of our fiscal year that is going to benefit us. If potash prices strengthen between now and the end of the fiscal year that will benefit us.”
The NDP blames financial mismanagement
Speaking to reporters at the legislative building, the NDP’s finance critic asked why the Saskatchewan Party started with unprecedented surpluses and has ended with a deficit in just eight years.
Trent Wotherspoon contends Saskatchewan people are the ones most impacted by the government’s spending restraint.
“Cutting directly where it impacts families, cutting in education in a big way, we see a government that frankly, has some messed up priorities, ” Wotherspoon argued.
The NDP wants the government to stop spending in areas like LEAN and public private partnership projects.
Spending restraint praised
The Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation is praising the government for finding efficiencies.
But Todd Mackay argues government should be behaving like this all the time not just doing it in reaction to falling revenues.
“With our family budget, sometimes revenues go down too, right? Sometimes you hit a tough spot and things get a little tight. At the end of the day we need to live within that reality,” he said.
Mackay wants to see less reliance on waiting around to see if oil prices and revenues will rise again.
“You can’t count on that. That is where you have to take action and reduce spending. The government has shown some action on that front, but we would like to see more.”