Finance Minister Donna Harpauer was in Prince Albert to tout the recent provincial budget at the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at the Coronet Hotel on Tuesday.
Harpauer touted the overall budget as a whole as benefitting everyone and used the slogan ‘growth that works for everyone’ throughout the 20 minute speech.
She summed up the speech by tying all of the numbers she spoke of throughout the speech.
“Saskatchewan’s population is growing at its fastest pace in more than a century. More people are working in the province than ever before, where people have more jobs, more opportunities, more doctors or nurses and more surgeries, more students for schools and more affordable child care,” Harpauer said to close the speech.
“Safer families and safer communities. More support for those most vulnerable. Strong financial management. A bright future and a better quality of life for all of Saskatchewan people. And that’s what this budget is all about, and that is growth that works for everyone,” she said.
She opened by saying that there were many numbers and that it was important to know what the government was doing for the people.
Her focus was all aspects of the budget including crime prevention, education, economic growth and investments that will directly affect Prince Albert.
“Our province is expected to lead the country and economic growth in 2022 and is projected to be second among the provinces in 2023. The goal of our budget is to ensure that growth continues and that it’s growth that works for everyone. The budget has a projected surplus of $1 billion, which is a strong bottom line,” Harpauer said.
She also talked about affordability in the province.
“There are no tax increases and no new taxes in this budget and it will help to keep life affordable when taxes, utilities and housing costs are combined,” she said. “Saskatchewan is the most affordable place to live in Canada for a family of four.”
Business investment also continues to grow in the province with 80 projects by private companies for an investment of $3 billion. Harpauer told those in attendance the government expects roughly $19.7 billion in revenue, along with roughly $18.7 billion in expenses. If that estimate holds, the province would have the second lowest net to GDP ratio at 14.1 per cent. Harpauer expects that number to drop even further to 13.2 per cent by the end of the ’23-24 financial year.
She said that economic growth allowed the government to pay down $1 billion in operating debt in this fiscal year.
“Including last year’s lowered borrowing costs and debt repayment, $117 million in annual savings have been generated, which is money that we can reinvest in health care, education, social safety, net capital and other priority areas,” Harpauer said. “Growth that works for everyone means everyone in Saskatchewan has access to health care services when they need it.”
Harpauer spoke about investment in health care, education and other priorities. The Ministry of Health’s budget is up 6.7 per cent from last year as the government tries to increase the number of full time positions in rural areas by 250. Some of that increase will come from recruitment, while the rest will come from expanding part-time roles to full-time. Harpauer said some of those new full-time positions will be in Prince Albert.
The budget also included a 6.2 per cent increase for Pre-K to Grade 12 and post-secondary education. Harpauer said they expect to see growing enrollment numbers as the province’s population rises.
Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions will receive $2 billion in school operating funding. For Prince Albert, that means $161.4 million in funding across the three school divisions.”
The province also plans to bring in $10 a day childcare with the help of the Federal Government. Harpauer said that plan included a 23.3 per cent spending increase for early learning and childcare.
“It will reduce childcare fees for families with children up to the age of six to an average of $10 per day as of April 1,” Harpauer told those in attendance. “Saskatchewan’s growing economy means more people are working in this province, and fewer people require income assistance for those who do need support.”
On the criminal justice and related matters, Harpauer touted the investment in operational funding for Second Stage Housing for victims of interpersonal violence and the new Saskatchewan Marshal Service.
This budget includes a new investment of $876,000 over three years to support survivors of domestic violence. There was also a $7 million commitment to establish the Saskatchewan Marshals Service. Harpauer said that will increase policing capacity within the province, with the focus on rural and remote areas. The SMS will include approximately 70 officers for increased law enforcement.
This budget also includes a $1.6 million to expand the Warrant Enforcement and Suppression team address.
“With the new unit right here in Prince Albert, this new eight officer unit targets offenders who represent a significant threat to the public economy in Saskatchewan is growing,” Harpauer said.
Bail reform, labour shortages, and Prince Albert representation in cabinet included in question period
When it came to question and answers following the speech Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne asked about bail reforms and other law enforcement matters but she said she will pass it on to Minister of Justice Bronwyn Eyre.
When asked about Prince Albert having representatives in cabinet she said it wasn’t her decision to make.
“You have a strong voice in the government. You have two strong voices. Very strong voices. Alana sits on Treasury Board and so she is there for each and every one of these decisions, and is an extremely important working member on the Treasury Board because this budget isn’t put together just by a finance minister alone,” Harpauer said.
Chamber President Patty Hughes asked labour shortages and skills training along with crime and homelessness supports.
“We will try to respond as much as possible in knowing which trades are needed and increase those training seats. Also, the Minister of Trade and Export, Jeremy Harrison, has been successful in lobbying with the Federal Government to expand our immigration,” Harpauer said.
“We’re expanding the addictions services, and some of that will be here in Prince Albert, obviously with dollars, but none of them have been dedicated to a specific place or project yet. There will be a request for interest and (we’ll) see what organizations can deliver the services with the additional funds in the budget.”
Also in attendance were Premier Scott Moe and MLAs Fred Bradshaw, Todd Goudy, Delbert Kirsch, Alana Ross and Joe Hargrave.
The next chamber event is the Samuel McLeod Business Awards on Friday, April 14.