Regina– When government spending not allocated within an approved budget takes place, the government must use “special warrants.” On March 1, the Government of Saskatchewan announced a number of these warrants.
Typically the provincial Legislature meets in February, and a budget is released in March. However, the first sitting of this spring’s session will be on April 6, which will also be budget day.
In the meantime, the government said in a release, “To help protect Saskatchewan people and businesses through the global COVID-19 pandemic, the $200 million health and public safety contingency has been drawn down, with $160 million in new contingency allocations. Combined with other spending needs for the 2020-21 fiscal year, this required the issuing of February special warrants totaling $322.8 million.”
“These special warrants are needed for pandemic-related costs, as well as for health system requirements, AgriInvest Program payments, and highways construction and winter maintenance,” Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said in a release. “In part through these special warrants, as well as in-year appropriation approved earlier in the fiscal year, our government has drawn down the Health and Public Safety Contingency.”
Trent Wotherspoon, NDP Finance Critic, said in an emailed statement on March 1, “The government’s announcement strengthens our call today to open the books and provide the 3rd Quarter financial report. They’re spending another $300 million without this basic act of accountability and transparency. We have called for the contingency fund to be used to fight COVID-19 and support families, businesses and jobs for months. The Sask. Party has failed to make that happen. There should have been a plan in place long ago to make much-needed investments in an open and transparent manner.
“This province is at a critical point in our economic history.
“The people of Saskatchewan deserve to have all the information available. All we get from the Sask. Party is more delays, more mismanagement and less transparency.”
The new contingency allocations totaling $160 million, consist of:
The first $40 million of the $200 million contingency was allocated to the Safe School Plan in the first quarter of the 2020-21 fiscal year, to support the safe re-opening on K-12 schools in the province.
Six ministries required special warrants, including:
Special warrant amounts will be included in the Supplementary Estimates No. 2, which will be tabled on budget day, April 6, 2021.
Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury