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Growing population means record spending in 2024 Sask. budget

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Growing population means record spending in 2024 Sask. budget
Current projections from the provincial government estimate Saskatchewan's population will reach 1.25 million people this year, and with it comes record spending in the 2024 budget – Mar 21, 2024

The 2024-25 provincial budget was announced Wednesday, and with it comes a record investment with a focus on education, health care and community.

Overall spending in this year’s budget is up $1.5 billion compared with last year, and with it comes a $273.2-million deficit.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said one of the main reasons for the increase in spending is the growing population.

“We need more classrooms as we have more people that live in our communities,” Moe said Thursday. “We need more health-care facilities, and our communities are also facing the same growth challenges … and the inflationary challenges that are present here.”

More people than ever before are living in Saskatchewan. Current projections from the provincial government estimate the province’s population will reach 1.25 million people this year.

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“These are challenges as people move to Saskatchewan and stay in Saskatchewan…. These challenges are new to us,” Moe said, referencing Alberta as an example that has been dealing with growth challenges since the 1950s, when both provinces had a similar population.

“I feel very deep in my heart that the majority of Saskatchewan people, if not all, will take those challenges of growth far before they take the problems of decline.”

Economist Jason Childs says this year’s budget reflects that population growth.

“If we hit that projection, we are going to have to spend more,” Childs said. “More people means more spending, but the good side of more people is it means more revenue.”

However, no new taxes or tax increases were listed for the budget, with the government claiming that Saskatchewan is one of the most affordable places to live in the country.

The Saskatchewan NDP argues these investments in health care and education won’t be enough to keep people in the province, saying there should have been a focus on affordability in the budget.

NDP immigration critic Noor Burki went on to say that while there is an increase in population from immigration, people aren’t staying in the province.

“People come over here, but they leave within two to three years and they don’t want to stay here,” Burki said. “People want to go where you have good health care and good education. They will definitely stay there.

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“The government has to do something about affordability. The budget is right in front of you, and they didn’t do anything.”

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