Saskatchewan

'Temporary deficit' one of the budget options: Sask. finance minister

Running a temporary deficit is one of the budget options the Saskatchewan government is looking at to cope with tough times, provincial Finance Minister Kevin Doherty says.

Province grappling with lower-than-expected oil prices, Kevin Doherty says

Kevin Doherty, Saskatchewan's finance minister, says spending cuts, tax increases or a temporary deficit are the options being considered to deal with falling revenues. (CBC)

Running a "temporary deficit" is one of the budget options the Saskatchewan government is looking at to cope with tough times, provincial Finance Minister Kevin Doherty says.

Doherty briefly discussed the possibility of a deficit Wednesday in an interview with CBC Radio's The Morning Edition host Sheila Coles.

The oil revenues flowing into government coffers have been declining in recent years as the price of crude continues to fall.

Cutting spending or raising taxes are two of the possible responses, but so is running a deficit where spending exceeds revenues, Doherty said.

You can raise taxes, you can cut or make, you know, draconian cuts if you will in various spending departments across government to try to balance the budget or have a temporary deficit.- Finance Minister Kevin Doherty

"When you're faced with those kinds of precipitous drops in revenue, you're faced with two or three choices," Doherty said. 

"One is you can raise taxes, you can cut or make, you know, draconian cuts if you will in various spending departments across government to try to balance the budget or have a temporary deficit."

The government has been meeting with chambers of commerce and other organizations to ask what their preference of the three is, he said.

"That's the kind of decision we'll have to take to the people of Saskatchewan as well," he said.

Typically, a provincial budget comes down in March, but this year, there won't be a one until after the April 2016 election.

Later, Opposition NDP critic Trent Wotherspoon said Doherty was offering Saskatchewan people a "bogus" set of options by saying it all boiled down to "draconian cuts," deficits or tax hikes. It's also wrong to wait until after the election to say what you want, he said.

"It's ludicrous to think that hiding the finances and their choices with our money is acceptable," Wotherspoon said in a news release.

To save money, the Sask. Party should cut spending on the the Lean program, their "American lobbyist", private consultants, cost overruns on the Regina bypass and government advertising, he said.

"There are a lot of savings to be found from that waste," Wotherspoon said.

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