Balancing the budget: a look-ahead to Saskatchewan's options
Government recently announced layoffs and spending cuts totalling $5 million ahead of budget
The provincial budget will be delivered on Wednesday, and the government has a $1.2 billion deficit to address.
So far, the Saskatchewan government has announced layoffs and spending cuts in advance of the budget. The layoffs include cleaners, gaming workers, and workers in the Ministry of Environment. The government also shut down its Executive Air service.
Altogether, the savings announced before the budget is released amount to a $5 million dent in the $1.2 billion deficit.
"I think what we'll have to do is look very closely and see just to what degree everybody shares in the pain," said Stephen Kenny, a University of Regina history professor. Kenny has analyzed past budgets going back decades.
"We'll see on Wednesday, but it's not apparent to me that everybody is going to share that pain equally," said Kenny.
Looming cuts will impact all
Kenny said he saw a similar predicament for government in the early 1990s under for the NDP — but that followed the financial mismanagement of the Devine government.
"What we have today is a government beginning its third mandate, a government which is really the author of its own misfortunes," said Kenny.
"It's governed in prosperous times, and now the challenge for it is to govern in more difficult times."
Jason Childs, an economics professor at the University of Regina, said he expects more spending and labour cuts from this provincial budget for tackling the deficit.
"Anytime you cut spending, somebody is going to lose out," said Childs.
"Somebody's going to lose their job, somebody's going to take a pay cut … if we're going to fix this problem, we're all going to have to take less, and some people are going to have to take a lot less."
Childs said the province may also see an increase in PST when the provincial budget is announced Wednesday.
He also hopes the Saskatchewan government doesn't follow the Alberta government's plan of banking on oil production to help balance the budget in upcoming years.
"I think it's now time to look elsewhere. We've been playing that 'wait for oil recovery' game for two or three years now, and it just hasn't happened," said Childs.
"To just toe the line and bank on recovery and natural resources is really that fourth quarter Hail Mary, and those don't often work out."
With files from Jill Morgan and Adam Hunter