Budget 2022-23: Saskatchewan Economy and Budget Are Back On Track
Saskatchewan's 2022-23 Budget, tabled today by Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, highlights a growing economy, improving finances and a clear path to balance with significant investments in government services for Saskatchewan people.
"Saskatchewan is back on track," Harpauer said. "We are seeing strong economic growth and job creation as we come out of the pandemic and as a result, the provincial's financial outlook has improved significantly.
"The deficit has been reduced by over $2.0 billion. Our economy is growing, with 30,000 new jobs created over the past year and the second highest rate of job growth in Canada so far in 2022.
"Our finances will steadily improve and we are on track to balance as a result of careful management of spending and prudent revenue forecasts.
"This budget makes significant investments that will get important government services back on track as we come out of the pandemic. This budget will fund thousands of surgeries in the first year of a three-year effort to bring the waitlist down to pre-pandemic levels. This budget helps make access to high-quality child care more affordable. This budget invests in our economy, it invests in health, education, important capital projects and it ensures our investments in those priorities are sustainable into the future."
The $463 million deficit forecast for 2022-23 is a $2.1 billion improvement from last year's budget.
Through the next three years, the path to balance shows successively smaller deficits of $384 million in 2023-24, $321 million in 2024-25 and $165 million in 2025-26. A balanced budget is expected in 2026-27.
Revenue of $17.2 billion is forecast in the 2022-23 Budget, up $2.7 billion from last year's budget. Non-renewable resource revenue is projected to be $2.9 billion, up $1.6 billion from last year, largely due to higher potash and oil price forecasts because of expected global demand.
"While volatile world events have made commodity prices difficult to forecast, as always our revenue forecasts are based on cautious oil price projections," Harpauer said. "It's too soon to tell if oil prices will remain high for an extended period and what impact that could have on revenues. We will continue to monitor the impact on both revenues and affordability and respond as required."
Expense of $17.6 billion is projected in the 2022-23 Budget, an increase of $531 million, or 3.1 per cent over last year's budget.
Investing in Health Care
"This budget includes key investments in health care" Harpauer said. "A record $6.8 billion includes funding for thousands of additional surgeries to bring down wait times. It includes increases to hire and retain physicians, to hire and train more nurses, and to hire more paramedics to provide the best possible health care services for Saskatchewan people."
The 2022-23 Budget provides the Saskatchewan Health Authority with $4.2 billion this year, up more than $277 million, or 7 per cent, compared to last year - also record investment.
An increase of $21.6 million will address the surgical waitlist, and fund thousands of additional surgeries this year, the first year of a three-year plan to deliver on the largest volume of surgical procedures in the history of our province. The aggressive plan targets a return to pre-COVID levels in surgical wait times by the end of March 2025.
This budget invests $470 million into mental health and addictions programs and services - over seven per cent of total health care spending - including a targeted investment of $8 million over last year, representing the highest investment ever in Saskatchewan for these programs and services. The increase will fund initiatives that provide effective counselling and treatments and introduce further proactive prevention measures.
A $17.0 million increase in this budget supports our seniors to live safely and comfortably and includes a number of important initiatives, among them:
- $4.8 million for home care services;
- $4.1 million to provide high-dose influenza vaccine to adults 65 and older;
- $1.6 million for operations at the Meadow Lake Northwest Community Lodge; and
- $6.5 million in new funding for an additional 117 continuing care aide positions.
The new care aide workers represent the second year of a three-year, $18.4 million commitment to hire 300 continuing care aides to work in long-term care and expanded home care services. The two-year total is now 225, and the final 75 will be funded next fiscal year.
This budget establishes a new and independent agency dedicated to recruiting and retaining health care workers. This budget also incudes a $1.5 million increase to support recruitment initiatives including the development of a settlement and relocation incentive program, to recruit 150 health care workers to Saskatchewan from the Philippines. It is the first year of a two-year program aimed at bringing 300 health care workers from the Philippines to Saskatchewan.
There is also $3.5 million in this budget for physician recruitment and retention initiatives, particularly targeting family physicians working in rural areas of the province.
There is $12.5 million in new funding for 11 additional intensive care beds across the province, the first year of a three-year strategy to add 31 ICU beds to bring the total to 110 by 2024-25, up from the current 79.
An increase of $3.0 million will fund 10 new high acuity beds at Regina General Hospital to care for patients with more complex medical needs than a traditional inpatient bed. Acuity beds are important for flexibility and can ease the demand on ICUs.
To enhance Emergency Medical Services in rural and remote areas, a $10.8 million increase in this budget will fund new paramedic positions for ambulance services, Community Para-medicine and the Medical First Responder Program.
Investing in Education
Education spending across government is $3.8 billion in this budget, up more than $47.2 million, or 1.3 per cent compared to last year.
Through this budget, the Ministry of Education will support pre-K to Grade 12 students, early learners and school and child care staff with $2.9 billion, up nearly $220 million compared to last year.
Saskatchewan's 27 school divisions will receive $1.99 billion in operating funding for the 2022 school year - a record level and an increase of $24.9 million over last year.
A new $7.0 million fund in this budget will allow school divisions to hire up to 200 additional, full-time educational assistants to support students and manage increasingly diverse classrooms.
This budget helps make access to high-quality child care more affordable. Funding for child care and early learning is $309.6 million, including funding provided through the Federal-Provincial Early Years agreements.
Of that funding, $4.3 million will create 6,100 new child care spaces, part of government's goal to create 28,000 new licensed spaces over the next five years.
"Starting in February 2022, parent child care fees were reduced by up to 50 per cent in licensed care. This year's funding will support further reducing parent fees as early as September 2022, making life more affordable for Saskatchewan families," Harpauer said.
The 2022-23 Budget also includes a $4.9 million increase to expand nurse training by 150 seats. More than $680 million for operating and capital grants to post secondary institutions is included in this budget. As well, this budget includes $38 million for student supports.
A Strong and Growing Economy
The rise in streaming services means the time is right to attract new investment from the film and television industry to Saskatchewan.
This budget includes an increase of $8.0 million, bringing the total funds available to $10 million, for the Creative Saskatchewan Production Grant Program, for film and television. Only Saskatchewan labour, goods and services are eligible for support under the program, ensuring dollars stay in the province.
"This investment is estimated to generate a $50 million increase in film and television production and millions in annual economic activity, including significant increased spending in the hospitality industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic," Harpauer said. "We are going to see a busy sound stage in Regina and today, I am honoured to announce that it will be renamed the John Hopkins Regina Sound Stage, honouring the memory of a strong advocate for our capital city, our province and our economy."
This budget includes $3.1 million to fully fund the International Trade and Investment Strategy. The strategy advances the province's economic interests abroad. Funding is used to operate Saskatchewan's international office network. This year we established offices in the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Vietnam, complementing our existing offices in Japan, India, Singapore and China.
The Saskatchewan Value-Added Agriculture incentive has been enhanced, and record agri-food exports of $17.5 billion in 2021 show the province is on track to meeting its goals.
This incentive and others are key to Saskatchewan's competitiveness, attracting private investment from global companies like BHP, Richardson International, Viterra, Ceres Global Ag, Cargill, Federated Co-Operatives, AGT Foods, Paper Excellence and Red Leaf Pulp.
These companies and others are investing $13.6 billion into Saskatchewan with projects including a new potash mine, new and expanded canola crush facilities, a wheat based pulp plant, a renewable diesel facility, a lumber mill and others. It is expected that nearly 9,000 thousand jobs in the construction phase and 2,330 permanent jobs will be created.
This budget includes $475,000 to create the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation. The corporation will offer up to $75 million in loan guarantees for private sector lending to Indigenous communities and organizations for investments into natural resource and value-added agriculture projects.
Investing in Capital to Build a Better Saskatchewan
There is $3.2 billion for capital projects in the 2022-23 Budget, record investment in Saskatchewan.
This budget includes $156.6 million for health care capital, including $15.2 million for urgent care centres in Regina and Saskatoon, $13.5 million to continue construction at the Prince Albert Victoria Hospital, $6.0 million to continue the project to replace the Weyburn General Hospital, and $6.5 million to continue design and procurement activities for specialized and standard long-term care beds in Regina.
The 2022-23 Budget includes $846.0 million to operate, maintain, build and improve the province's roads and highways, through the Ministry of Highways.
The budget provides for over 1,100 kilometres of improvements on provincial highways - on track to meet the Growth Plan commitments to upgrade and build 10,000 kilometres of the provincial highway network by 2030.
Upgrades include Highway 3 twinning west of Prince Albert, and Highway 5 corridor improvements east of Saskatoon. Planning and pre-construction for twinning projects on Highways 6 and 39 near Regina and Weyburn are part of this budget.
The 2022-23 Budget includes $168.6 million for school infrastructure. This budget includes $95.2 million to support the ongoing planning and construction of 15 new schools and the renovation of five existing schools, as well as $55.9 million for preventative and emergency maintenance. An additional $12 million provides for the purchase of relocatable classrooms.
The budget includes a few small revenue measures.
The existing application of PST is being broadened to match the federal GST base for admissions and entertainment events. Effective October 1, 2022, the PST will apply to sporting events, concerts, museums, fairs, movies, gym memberships, green fees - among others. There are exemptions for children's activities, amateur events and events run by schools and non-profits. This change is projected to add $10.5 million in PST revenue this year, and $21 million annually.
Mill rates for the education portion of property taxes (EPT) are being adjusted slightly, including a decrease to the differential between the highest and lowest EPT mill rates, to improve overall fairness. Slight increases to mill rates, combined with forecasted base growth are expected to total about $20.0 million in 2022-23.
Tobacco taxes are increasing by 2 cents per cigarette and 8 cents per gram and 1.3 cents per stick of heat-not-burn products. Tobacco tax increases are effective midnight March 23, 2022, and are expected to generate $12.1 million in additional annual revenue.
Total public debt is forecast to be $30 billion at March 31, 2023, a $2.3 billion increase from the public debt forecast in last year's budget.
A strong Saskatchewan economy and higher revenues have reduced operating debt requirements by $450 million in 2021-22, bringing operating debt to less than $10 billion.
The $450 million lower operating debt requirement carries through to the 2022-23 debt forecast, as well.
"Saskatchewan is back on track and our future is bright," Harpauer said. "The investments made in this budget will ensure our economy remains strong, important government services continue to improve and our best days are still ahead in Saskatchewan."