Premier Moe wants Saskatchewan’s 2020-21 budget tabled, scrutinized before fall election

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe speaks during a meeting of Canada's premiers in Saskatoon, Sask. Wednesday, July 10, 2019. Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

Premier Scott Moe says he wants the people of Saskatchewan to have the opportunity to scrutinize the 2020-21 provincial budget before they head to the polls this fall.

“Our preference is to introduce a budget in the house, have it voted on and have the legislative scrutiny we feel this budget deserves,” said Moe on Wednesday during a press conference.

In February, the government had a plan to table a balanced budget. But with the oil price crash and the economic collapse that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, the budget was put on hold.

Instead, on March 18, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer presented a spending plan one hour before the legislature adjourned to allow the government to handle the emergency health crisis.

Since then, one committee meeting has been held by the Board of Eternal Economy on May 7 to approve government spending.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Saskatchewan voters will head to the polls in October, bipartisan election plan in the works

Despite Saskatchewan declaring its curve flat, the legislature has yet to be called back like it has been in other provinces that have been hit worse by the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, both Quebec and Ontario resumed their sittings with fewer members taking part in question period.

And from Parliament to Capital Hill, Zoom is used by elected officials to conduct government business. But that option is not being considered in Saskatchewan, says Moe.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan expands testing criteria as province reopens' Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan expands testing criteria as province reopens
Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan expands testing criteria as province reopens – May 14, 2020

House leaders for the government of Saskatchewan and Sask. NDP have been tasked with putting a plan in place to reconvene the legislature.

Story continues below advertisement

“Our house leaders have been meeting for some time now trying to come up with some type of modified sitting arrangement so that we could introduce a budget in the house,” Moe said.

“If house leaders are unable to come to an agreement to modify how that structure will work, there will be all the budgetary information in the first quarter report.”

The finance minister will release the government’s updated revenue projections in June. And in August, the government will release its first-quarter budget update which will reveal revenue the government received to date.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan legislators should be back at work, says politics professor: ‘I find it strange’

Jim Farney, head of politics and international studies department at the University of Regina says it’s important for a budget to get tabled before the general election on Oct. 26.

“I think it will be really, really problematic if we don’t have a full debate on the budget and expenditure pieces before we move into an election campaign. Having the baseline of a shared agreement on what the numbers actually are is crucial to the two parties developing actual platforms people can choose between,” Farney said.

“If we don’t have that before we go into campaign mode — that’s a problem.”