Sask government issues $322.8 million in special warrants in February

Regina– When government spending not allocated within an approved budget takes place, the government must use “special warrants.” On March 1, the Government of Saskatchewan announced a number of these warrants.
Typically the provincial Legislature meets in February, and a budget is released in March. However, the first sitting of this spring’s session will be on April 6, which will also be budget day. 
In the meantime, the government said in a release, “To help protect Saskatchewan people and businesses through the global COVID-19 pandemic, the $200 million health and public safety contingency has been drawn down, with $160 million in new contingency allocations. Combined with other spending needs for the 2020-21 fiscal year, this required the issuing of February special warrants totaling $322.8 million.”
“These special warrants are needed for pandemic-related costs, as well as for health system requirements, AgriInvest Program payments, and highways construction and winter maintenance,” Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said in a release. “In part through these special warrants, as well as in-year appropriation approved earlier in the fiscal year, our government has drawn down the Health and Public Safety Contingency.”
Trent Wotherspoon, NDP Finance Critic, said in an emailed statement on March 1, “The government’s announcement strengthens our call today to open the books and provide the 3rd Quarter financial report. They’re spending another $300 million without this basic act of accountability and transparency. We have called for the contingency fund to be used to fight COVID-19 and support families, businesses and jobs for months. The Sask. Party has failed to make that happen. There should have been a plan in place long ago to make much-needed investments in an open and transparent manner.
“This province is at a critical point in our economic history.
“The people of Saskatchewan deserve to have all the information available. All we get from the Sask. Party is more delays, more mismanagement and less transparency.”
The new contingency allocations totaling $160 million, consist of:
  $75.6 million for Saskatchewan Health      Authority COVID pressures
  $20 million for the Saskatchewan      Small Business Emergency Payment Program
  $17 million for Tourism supports
  $14.2 million for Municipal Grants      for Growth
  $12.3 million for Public Safety      response
  $9.9 million for Custody Services
  $5.5 million for the Chief Electoral      Officer
  $3.2 million for Court Service      enhancements
  $1.8 million for SaskPoly Dental Lab      renovations
  $500,000 for Conexus Arts Centre      support
The first $40 million of the $200 million contingency was allocated to the Safe School Plan in the first quarter of the 2020-21 fiscal year, to support the safe re-opening on K-12 schools in the province.
Six ministries required special warrants, including:
  $179.5 million for Health
      $75.0 million       for service pressures in the Saskatchewan Health Authority
      $52.9 million       for various costs across the health system including the response to       COVID-19 and settled collective bargaining
      $50.3 million       for equipment purchases for the response to COVID-19
      $1.3 million for       asset development costs for the new physician claims management system
  $96.6 million for Highways
      $57.0 million       due to a good season with more contractors completing more work than a       typical season
      $23.0 million in       pressures for winter maintenance
      $14.2 million       for municipal grants to stimulate economic growth and allow contractors       to prepare for the upcoming season
      $2.4 million to       provide federal funding to Transwest Air for scheduled air services to       five communities in northern Saskatchewan under the federal-provincial       contribution agreement with Transport Canada
  $35.4 million for Corrections,      Policing and Public Safety
      $15.7 million       for Custody Services primarily due to operational pressures related to the       COVID-19 pandemic, as well as salary costs related to overtime
      $13.8 million       for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, primarily due to COVID-19       response measures
      $5.9 million for       the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program for increased disaster claim payments
  $5.1 million for Justice and Attorney      General
      $3.174 million       for Courts Services due to additional operational requirements due to the       COVID-19 pandemic
      $1.156 million       for Boards, Commissions and Independent Offices for utilization pressures       in the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, the Human Rights Commission and the       Office of Residential Tenancies
      $770,000 for       Innovation and Legal Services due to higher usage of the ISC Corporate       Registry and to cover falloff in revenue to the Queen’s Printer Revolving       Fund due to the pandemic
  $4.4 million for Agriculture for the      AgriInvest Program based on the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada winter      forecast
  $1.8 million for Advanced Education      for Saskatchewan Polytechnic to upgrade its dental lab facility to ensure compliance      with COVID-19 Protocols
Special warrant amounts will be included in the Supplementary Estimates No. 2, which will be tabled on budget day, April 6, 2021.
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