March 21, 2019 4:13 pm
Updated: March 21, 2019 4:51 pm

Former premier Brad Wall A-OK on Saskatchewan’s 2019-20 budget

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announces he is retiring from politics during a press conference at the Legislative Building in Regina, Sask., on Aug. 10, 2017.

Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press
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Saskatchewan’s 2019-20 budget has the approval of the former premier.

Brad Wall said a balanced budget will benefit the province for years to come.

“It would be hard pressed to find another province in the country that has a balanced budget, certainly not the federal government and most governments don’t even have a plan to get to balance,” Wall said.

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“It means we’re being responsible in terms of future generations and also it’s important to note that a balanced budget, fiscal responsibility is the foundation to a competitive economy, to a good growth plan.”

READ MORE: ‘The right balance’: Saskatchewan delivers balanced budget

Balancing the budget was part of a three-year plan that began in the 2017-18 budget. It was a budget that saw a number of significant funding cuts, the shutdown of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) and a PST increase.

“My last budget day was a tough budget day because we tabled a very difficult budget that recognized that resource revenue was off a billion dollars, [and] that it wasn’t coming back any time soon and we needed to move away from a dependency on resource revenue,” Wall said.

“That required some changes on the tax side, it would require some reductions in spending and some cuts. None of that’s a lot of fun.”

Wall said credit has to go to Premier Scott Moe on following through on that promise.

READ MORE: New schools, hospitals included in Saskatchewan budget

Over two-thirds of the budget is being spent on health, education and social services.

A record $5.89 billion is being invested in health, with $402 million going to mental health and addictions services, about $30 million more than last year.

Education spending will increase 0.6 per cent to $3.28 billion, with school divisions receiving $1.9 billion, up $26.2 million.

Social Services is receiving $1.43 billion, up $51.4 million from a year ago.

“You could spread a little bit of money to a lot of places and maybe not had the impact. But $30 million into mental health, the significant reinvestment in education and in the specifics the focus in this budget is important,” Wall said.

READ MORE: No funding increase in provincial budget for Saskatchewan’s universities

“Between those, they are all improvements on the plan that was, that we announced two years ago with that difficult budget.”

Wall also felt good about the tax credit changes for first responders. The changes allow volunteers with at least 200 hours of service in a year to claim a $3,000 tax credit, starting in the 2020 tax year.

“That’s something we campaigned on in 2016 that was part of our platform. Because of the fiscal situation, the promise couldn’t be kept immediately after re-election. And it’s been remembered by the government,” Wall said.

Carbon tax was not included in the budget, something Wall said he’s OK with.

READ MORE: Federal carbon tax to appear on SaskPower, SaskEnergy bills starting April 1

“If [carbon tax] happens, I agree with how they budgeted it. First of all, I noted in this budget that Minister [Donna] Harpauer and the cabinet and caucus have taken a very small-c conservative approach to the budget and they should,” Wall said.

“You should take a small-c conservative approach in the question of carbon tax revenue. Since it’s not a sure thing, let’s not budget on it.”

Total spending for the budget is forecasted at $14.99 billion, up 2.6 per cent from last year.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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