The Government of Saskatchewan is looking to ‘Protect, Build, and Grow’ with their latest budget unveiled last week.
The province is forecasting $14.4 billion in revenue, an increase of 829 million compared to last year. Despite the increase, the province plans to run a deficit of $2.6 billion.
Greg Ottenbreit, the MLA for Yorkton, said that the deficit is something they felt was needed in this year’s budget.
“In these times of COVID, it’s important to not only support but invest in the province,” he said. “What I have been hearing from constituents and province from around the provinces is at this point they are not really worried so much about the deficits; they want to make sure that they are supported, and we are poised to recover and build once we come through the pandemic.”
Ottenbreit said that compared to other provinces, he feels Saskatchewan is in a good place.
“When you look at our financial standing, it is quite impressive by comparison. We have the best debt to GDP ratio in Canada, the second-best credit rating in Canada; we have some of the best job creation numbers and job recovery numbers across the country as well,” he stated. “All things considered, in the current state of our country, province, and the world, we are posed in a pretty strong position.”
The Government is set to roll out a record $6.5 billion in health care funding, including a $90 million increase for mass vaccination roll-out, personal protective equipment, lab capacity, and physician costs. The province will also be spending $1.5 billion in COVID-19 supports and $458 million for mental health and addiction services programs.
The Government also plans to spend $3.1 billion on capital investment in schools, hospitals, highways, Crown corporations, and other needed infrastructure.
Despite a significant amount of money going towards healthcare, one of NDP Leader Ryan Meili’s criticisms was a lack of long-term funding towards seniors and long-term care homes.
“I would point to our record in Government, specifically long-term care facilities,” Ottenbreit said. “There is always more you can do, but when I look at what we have done in the area of seniors and supports for seniors, I’m pretty okay with our record but always looking to improve and do things that support those helped build our province.”
For people in Yorkton, Ottenbreit said that plenty of money is coming the city’s way.
“This budget there is financing in place for the Yorkton Regional High School renovation, around $20 million for that renovation. The continued work on our highway system. We know that the passing lanes for Highways 9 and 10 were completed last year; there is still some more work that has to be done on those corridors, but also the Highway 16 passing lanes will be started this year, as well as significant infrastructure investments into Highway 229, and the Good Spirit Provincial Park.”
Ottenbreit added that he is proud that there were no significant cuts or tax increases in this budget.