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Sask. government approves $142.6M in late year spending

Saskatchewan's new diverging diamond interchange opened to traffic Friday, March 9, 20-months ahead of schedule. This is part of why the Regina Bypass needed a $70 million advance in funding. Derek Putz / Global News

With a delayed provincial budget, the provincial government approved a special warrant to approve an additional $142.6 million across the health, justice and highways ministries for the remainder of the fiscal year.

This approval comes from a cabinet order-in-council on March 1.

The largest share of this money, $70 million, is going toward the Regina Bypass project. This is due to the project being ahead of schedule, so higher than budgeted work took place this year.

One of the most notable advancements is the diverging diamond interchange near White City opening 20 months ahead of schedule.

READ MORE: Diamond overpass opens 20-months ahead of schedule

Another $5 million is going to the Ministry of Highways for additional winter maintenance.

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The Ministry of Health received an additional $57.1 million, which a ministry official says is primarily due to higher than expected utilization of services.

A couple of highlights of increased service use include a 1.4 per cent rise in emergency service use in Saskatoon, as well as a 2.2 per cent increase in baby deliveries in that same region.

Overall, the special warrant for health is equal to about a 1.5 per cent increase over the $3.7 billion regional health authority budget laid out last spring.

The remaining $10 million goes to the Ministry of Justice, with $4.7 million going to court service and $5.25 million to the Office of the Chief Coroner.

On the court service side, $1.3 million is for salaries of court staff, who oversee approximately one million provincial appearances annually across the province. The Court of Queen’s Bench handles approximately 16,000 cases annually.

Court related costs including psychological assessments, jury support, transcription services and court appointed counsel ran an additional $1.4 million higher than originally budgeted, $58.3 million.

The remaining $2 million is to account for unpaid fines the ministry has been unable to collect. A ministry official said some of the unpaid fines involve people who are in custody, and therefore unable to pay their fines until released.

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The $5.25 million going to the Office of the Chief Coroner is for a settlement in a lawsuit against chief forensic pathologist Dr. Shaun Ladham. In November, a jury found he did not act in good faith during a 2012 professional assessment of Dr. Jeffery Racette.

READ MORE: Jury awards $5 million against Coroner’s office in lawsuit

“The trial heard evidence that Dr. Ladham went as far as switching samples. That is, switching samples of findings that Dr. Racette had made, to substitute findings which he then claimed had errors in them,” Bob Hrycan, Racette’s attorney said following the verdict.

The province has filed an appeal in this case in early December. Further court dates have not yet been set. The Court of Appeal is still waiting on necessary paperwork before moving the case forward.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said Thursday that these kind of special warrants are common near the end of the fiscal year.​

With files from Jules Knox

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