Report from the Legislature – March 19, 2014

Saskatchewan’s population is now 1,117,503 – growth of more than 20,000 people in the last year.  To support and encourage this steady growth, our government has presented its seventh consecutive balanced budget.  This budget controls spending while managing to make key investments in our infrastructure and our people.  The 2014-15 budget is also balanced without tax increases.

Our Steady Growth budget accounts for all government revenue and all government spending with a projected surplus of $71 million.   With revenue essentially flat – down 0.7% from last year to $14.07 billion – this wasn’t easy.  With a decline in revenue, we had a choice to make.  Do we raise taxes or control spending?  Our preference will always be to balance the budget by controlling spending.  This is something we were able to accomplish while making targeted investments in infrastructure, employment and job training, seniors, students, people with disabilities, children and families.

Our government continues to build and upgrade infrastructure right across the province, meeting the challenges of growth and planning for future growth.  Whether schools or hospitals, highways or high-speed data networks, power generation plants, bridges or natural gas transmission lines, our government is building for the future.  Key infrastructure investments include:

  • $405.2 million to provide provincial highway and transportation infrastructure upgrades, including twinning Highway 16 from Saskatoon to Clavet, pre-construction work on a number of twinning projects on Highways 6, 7 and 39, and pre-construction work for future passing lanes on Highway 7 from Delisle to Rosetown;
  • $16.0 million to complete the new hospital in Moose Jaw;
  • $2.0 million to begin planning the renewal of Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert;
  • $4.1 million for planning four new major school projects including replacing the Connaught School and Sacred Heart School in Regina as well as major renovation projects for St. Brieux School and Sacred Heart in Moose Jaw;
  • $32.6 million transferred for post-secondary capital initiatives, an increase of $7.1 million or 28 per cent over last year.  Initiatives include capital maintenance, $6.5 million for continued construction of the Health Sciences Facility at the University of Saskatchewan, $4.5 million for the Trades and Technology Centre at Parkland Regional College in Yorkton and $1.0 million for continued construction of Weyburn’s Southeast Regional College.Key investments in people and quality of life include:
  • Record funding of nearly $5.0 billion to be spent through the Ministry of Health – a 3.0 per cent increase compared to last year – to deliver high-quality health care services for Saskatchewan people;
  • Regional health authorities will receive $3.25 billion, up 3.4 per cent from last year, for operating funding and targeted initiatives;
  • $60.5 million for the surgical waitlist initiative, aiming to meet the three month waitlist target for all regional health authorities by the end of 2014-15;
  • $13.15 million – an increase of $3.4 million compared to last year – for the operation of five Collaborative Emergency Centres, as well as to enhance primary health care sites;
  • $4.5 million for the HomeFirst/Quick Response Homecare program – an increase of $2.5 million over last year;
  • $3.7 million for ongoing enhancements to the Seniors’ Care Urgent Action Fund to address issues in long-term care facilities;
  • $800,000 to develop a new Seniors’ House Calls program for seniors with complex issues;
  • $155.7 million, up $4.9 million or 3.3 per cent compared to last year, for initiatives including the planning, delivery and evaluation of cancer care through the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency;
  • $956.5 million to be spent through the Ministry of Social Services – up $65.8 million or 7.4 per cent compared to last year;
  • $446.2 million, up $84.3 million compared to last year, for new and enhanced programming for people with disabilities and for increased utilization;
  • $8.7 million increase for Child and Family agenda initiatives bringing the total commitment in new funding to $62.5 million since 2011;
  • $1.76 billion to be spent through the Ministry of Education, an increase of $52.4 million over last year;
  • School operating funding provided to school divisions is $1.82 billion, an increase of 2.4 per cent from last year and is made up of $1.17 billion from the Ministry of Education and $646.7 million from Education Property Tax;
  • $52.7 million, up 4.3 per cent compared to last year, to expand the number of child care spaces by 500;
  • $20.4 million – an increase of more than 6.0 per cent over last year – to support 15 new pre-K programs;
  • $668.9 million for post-secondary institution operating grants and targeted funding, an increase of $16.8 million compared to last year;
  • Direct student supports of $216.0 million, an increase of $18.5 million over last year or 9.4 per cent, including:
    • $82 million through the Graduate Retention Program, up $18.1 million from last year;
    • $37.4 million for other ongoing provincial tax credits related to education costs and interest paid on student loans;
    • $32.5 million for the Student Aid Fund;
    • $31.0 million for the Provincial Training Allowance;
    • $7.5 million for the Saskatchewan Advantage Grant for Education Savings;
    • $7.0 million for the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship; and
    • $5.0 million for the Saskatchewan Innovation and Opportunity Scholarship;
  • Increases of $2.1 million to add 700 new Adult Basic Education spaces and $1 million to add 300 new apprenticeship training seats;
  • $189.2 million – an increase of $4.4 million or 2.4 per cent over last year – for initiatives that directly benefit First Nations and Métis people including $6.0 million to double funding for initiatives related to the Joint Task Force on First Nation and Metis Education and Employment; and
  • $394.6 million of direct provincial support to municipalities, an increase of $32.8 million, or 9.1 per cent, from last year and an increase of $152.7 million or 63.1 per cent from the 2007-08 Budget.

With our government changing to a summary financial focus, a move recommended and supported by the Provincial Auditor, steady growth is the big picture.  With a full view of what’s happening in Saskatchewan today, we have a vision for the long-term.  This budget strengthens government’s fiscal accountability while meeting the challenges of a growing province.  It helps secure a better quality of life and it represents another confident step forward on our government’s path of steady growth.