Meili asks for legislative session to resume in Sept., but Premier Moe says no

On Tuesday, NDP Leader Ryan Meili sent a letter to Scott Moe asking for a return to the legislature in September.

Moe denied the request and said Meili simply wanted a 'do-over' for the last three weeks.

Meili said what was presented in the budget and during the shortened sitting "falls far short of what Saskatchewan people need and what the legislative precedent demands."

He asked the government to return in September to present:

  • Budget projections for the next three years, including spending and revenue over that period.
  • An allocation of the government's $200-million COVID-19 contingency fund.

Meili posed the request in question period Wednesday morning.

Moe said the government accomplished what it set out to do by introducing a budget and passing legislation. He said Saskatchewan will be the only jurisdiction provincial or federal to pass a budget during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What the leader of the opposition is asking for is a do-over. There is going to be no do-over," Moe told the assembly.

The budget will be voted on Thursday afternoon.

"We are going to have a much larger debate here in the province of Saskatchewan," Moe said referring to the October 26 election date.

"The people of this province are going to have a choice. They are going to be able to choose which party is best to engineer the economic recovery of Saskatchewan post-COVID-19."

Meili responded saying Saskatchewan people deserve "a real budget and a real plan so when we come out for an election they have real information to make a real choice."

"We're not coming back to the legislature," Moe said.

The 20-minute debate was among the loudest of the shortened sitting.

Meili accuses government of 'hiding their real plans,' Moe calls accusation false 

Following question period Moe told reporters the Saskatchewan government has plans to release a first-quarter financial update in August, likely the last fiscal update before the election.

"This budget has been through three weeks of legislative scrutiny as well as 60 hours of committee," Moe said.

Meili said that over the past 12 days, the government has not answered questions about future financial projections or a path to get back to a balanced budget.

"The big thing that's missing is the projections for the next three to four years when they plan to bring the budget to a balance. The minister has said three to four years but we don't see any of that information," Meili said. 

He accused the government of "hiding their real plans" to raise taxes and selling off government assets, including Crown corporations, citing the 2017 budget that raised the PST and eliminated the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.

"It would be absolutely irresponsible of me to accept this theatre, this farce, as the real thing," Meili said. 

"Those accusations are utterly false," Moe said, adding no other government in Canada has committed to when it will return a balanced budget.

Moe said his party will run in October on its recovery plan, its response to COVID-19 and its growth plan, which was announced in 2019.

"The intent is to not raise taxes. My belief is that there will be no need to raise taxes in the next mandate if we are able to grow and recover the economy in Saskatchewan," Moe said.

Meili said his party "will not raise taxes on ordinary Saskatchewan families." He did not put a timeline on when an NDP government would meet a balanced budget.

Government reports $319M deficit to end 2019-20 fiscal year

Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer said the government was on track to have a surplus in 2019-20 before the pandemic hit. The government's financial update shows it finished the year with a $319 million deficit.

"Every province in Canada and every jurisdiction in the world has been impacted financially and economically by the global pandemic. However, Saskatchewan is better positioned than most on the path to economic and financial recovery," Harpauer said in a statement.

The government said revenue declined by $490 million in the fourth quarter. It said the decline was due to a $431 million drop in net income from investment losses in the Government Business Enterprises (GBEs).

  • Total expense was $15.21 billion in 2019-20, which is $216 million or 1.4 per cent greater than budgeted.
  • Total revenue of $14.89 billion in 2019-20 was less than budgeted by $138 million, or 0.9 per cent.  

Meili said he was "not surprised" there was a deficit. 

"We know the Saskatchewan economy was in recession leading into the pandemic," Meili said.