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Budget estimates show increases for healthcare and capital spending

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer presented the province’s budget estimates on Wednesday in lieu of a full budget. It showed a 3.1 per cent increase to spending, and 3.8 per cent raise for health services.

“Some governments in Canada have chosen to delay their entire budgets as a result of the pandemic. We considered doing the same, but have decided to proceed with a budget estimate so that a final spending in health care, education and in other areas can proceed,” said Harpauer during a press conference.

The estimate for health comes out to $5.77 billion, up $211 million from the 2019-20 budget.

A positive note around the budget estimates comes from the $12 million increase for mental health and addictions, bringing it to $435 million. Some of those funds will be used for a 20-bed provincial addictions centre, specializing in the treatment of crystal meth, which will be approved to open in Estevan later this year.

A total of $3.7 billion will be allocated to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) which is a $140.6 million increase. 

Harpauer noted the additional health funding allocated to the SHA will help fund the response to COVID-19.

“This funds doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who today are on the frontlines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Harpauer.

Harpauer said the 3.1 per cent raise in spending and $2.7 billon capital plan is in place to stabilize and stimulate the economy. She also said the province has a “very strong” cash position with $1.3 billion in liquid cash reserves.

“We are well positioned to manage through this challenging time and provide additional resources to address the health and economic challenges COVID-19 requires,” said Harpauer.

Other numbers to note would be the bump up for education. The total number is at $2.56 billion which is up $86 million. A $34.8 million increase for school capital, a total of $130.4 million was on the estimates which will fund new school projects, major renovations, continuation of existing school capital projects, relocatables and maintenance.

Some of the projects that fall under that umbrella are a new joint-use school in Harbour Landing in Regina, the consolidation of Princess Alexandra, King George and Pleasant Hill elementary schools in Saskatoon and a new consolidated elementary and high school in Carrot River.

Jordan Stricker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Estevan Mercury