Questions are surfacing whether running back-to-back deficits in Saskatchewan is legal.
The opposition NDP thinks the SaskParty is breaking The Growth and Financial Security Act after Premier Brad Wall announced Monday, as a last resort, the province would be in deficit this year and next fiscal year, before returning to balance by 2017-18 because of a serious revenue shortfall.
The law states that a balanced budget must be maintained except in extraordinary circumstances, such as a natural disaster. If that’s the case, the law outlines how the government must report what the deficit is and why, while being required to reach at least an offsetting surplus the year after.
“This is a problem. What we heard from the premier is in violation to their very own law,” said NDP leader Cam Broten. “The spirit absolutely talks about the need to be open and clear with Saskatchewan people to say what the true state is and we don’t know … and as the legislation points out, what is the plan to deal with this and get out of it?”
Broten is calling for MLAs to return to the legislature for at least one week so that his party can properly question the provincial government and hold it accountable.
When asked about whether his party was breaking the law after he made the deficit announcement, Wall was quick to dismiss any contradiction of the legislation.
“It’s our view that it’s not a problem because of the nature of summaries when we switched to summary financial budgeting,” he explained.
Since the law was introduced, Saskatchewan has changed its accounting practices, going from two sets of books – the General Revenue Fund and the Summary Financials – to just one. The legislation refers to the General Revenue Fund, which the government no longer uses.
Wall has said the deficit will be revealed in the upcoming weeks.