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Scott Moe says government dispute with APAS avoidable with ‘a couple of phone calls’

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 on a rapid antigen test. Liam Richards / The Canadian Press

A recent public feud between the Saskatchewan government and an industry group representing Saskatchewan farmers could have been easily avoided, according to Premier Scott Moe.

Moe’s comments come a day after Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said a news release from the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) was “an attack on our government.”

Read more: Saskatchewan finance minister calls budget criticism an ‘attack on government’

“All of the letters in this case, really, could have been avoided had a couple of phone calls ultimately been made,” Moe said.

The spat began after Harpauer provided a financial update Monday morning, which included a projected $2.1-billion deficit. She said the budget would almost be balanced if not for sizeable crop insurance claims resulting from the catastrophic effects of the 2021 drought.

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A subsequent news release from APAS highlighted a surplus in the crop insurance fund prior to the 2021 growing season.

“It’s not fair to blame producers for a provincial deficit in a drought year when that surplus gets used up,” said APAs vice-president Ian Boxall in the release.

Read more: Crop insurance and drought relief boosting Saskatchewan deficit: finance minister

The fund for the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation is filled through premiums paid by producers, along with provincial and federal contributions. Moe said under financial summary reporting, when money flows out of the fund to producers, it needs to be disclosed as an expense.

Speaking to reporters, Moe relayed a message to the APAS executive.

“If you have questions, make a phone call and we can have the discussion, so that we both fully understand how the public sector accounting works here in the province,” the premier said.

“And make sure that you’re voicing your opinion on behalf of what you’re hearing from your constituents.”

Read more: Many Saskatchewan farmers unable to fill grain contracts: industry survey

Tensions appeared to have eased Thursday, as a letter from APAS president Todd Lewis said the association values its relationship with the government and ministries of agriculture and finance.

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“I stand to be corrected on the operational side of the Finance Ministry and the use of summary financial statements,” Lewis said.

“However, having these discussions without being accused of being deceitful, ignorant, or misinformed would be appreciated.”

– with files from Connor O’Donovan

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan government fires back after APAS callout' Saskatchewan government fires back after APAS callout
Saskatchewan government fires back after APAS callout – Dec 1, 2021

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