Sask. financial update provides 'no surprises' as government holds line on new affordability measures

Saskatchewan's Finance Minister Donna Harpauer says the provincial government's surplus remains at a projected $1.1 billion thanks to higher potash and oil prices and increased revenue from taxation.

Opposition says government should scrap PST expansion, lower power and energy rates

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said the provincial government's mid-year financial update was about keeping things on track rather than surprises. (Matt Howard/Radio-Canada)

Saskatchewan's Finance Minister Donna Harpauer says the provincial government's surplus remains at a projected $1.1 billion thanks to higher potash and oil prices and increased revenue from taxation.

Harpauer provided a mid-year financial update on Tuesday morning.

At the first quarter update in August, Harpauer formally announced the plans to send $500 cheques to Saskatchewan adults.

On Tuesday, the update was more straightforward.

"I think [people] should feel secure that we haven't made any changes from the first quarter and there are no surprises today."

In recent days the Opposition NDP has called for additional affordability measures.

On Monday in question period, Opposition Leader Carla Beck called the cheques "cold comfort" to people facing rising costs. The Opposition has called for the government to reduce Crown energy bills.

Harpauer said Tuesday that the government was not considering that option. 

"We made a substantive investment of $450 million in total that will go back into individuals' pockets and we're mindful that we have the lowest utility bundle in the country."

Harpauer said the government did not entertain additional affordability measures "at this time" and chose instead to retire $1 billion in provincial debt, a move announced in August.

The surplus for 2022-23 is forecasted to be $1.1 billion, up $50.1 million from what was predicted in the first quarter update and a $1.6-billion improvement from the original budget projection.

Revenues are also up, albeit not as high as they were in the first quarter update due to a drop in oil and gas and potash prices since then.

"We are seeing oil already dropping significantly from where it peaked earlier in the year. Potash has been more steady but it has had some softening."

Revenue is now projected at $19.5 billion, up $336.9 million or 1.8 per cent from the first quarter projection. Overall revenues are up $2.4 billion from budget.

This is due in large part to a $1.4-billion increase in non-renewable resource revenue from the budget forecast in March.

Harpauer said it was too early to project how commodity prices could affect the 2023-24 budget.

"If only we had that crystal ball, right?"

She said she would be "shocked" if commodity prices remain as high as they have been over the longer term.

Expenses are forecast to be $18.4 billion, an increase of $286.8 million or 1.6 per cent from first quarter, and $795 million from budget.

Harpauer said she had her "fingers crossed" that there will not be any large spending for the remainder of the year. She said the Ministry of Health has not asked for any additional funding.

The major expense difference from the budget projection is the one-time $450-million cost to pay for the $500 cheque program. She said those are in the process of being mailed to adults who filed income tax.

Harpauer said there was a "printer glitch" due to more than 900,000 cheques that had to be printed and mailed.

She said everyone who filed their income tax on time should see a cheque before Christmas.

Opposition calls for more affordability help

Opposition finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said the government should have done more to provide affordability relief to people in the province.

Wotherspoon said government revenues have been "driven through the roof by an external, extraordinary and unforgivable situation" of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"[The province is] offering no lasting, long-term affordability relief for Saskatchewan people and it's incredibly disappointing to see this government fail this important test for Saskatchewan people."

Wotherspoon said the government has expanded the PST, and that SaskPower and SaskEnergy are both increasing utility rates.

He said the NDP wants those tax increases scrapped and for the Crown rate increases to be cancelled.

The Opposition has also called for an investigation into grocery and meat pricing.


Adam Hunter


Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: