Sask government issues $322.8 million in special warrants in February

Regina – When government spending not allocated within an approved budget takes place, the government must use “special warrants.” On March 1, the Government of Saskatchewan announced a number of these warrants.

Typically the provincial Legislature meets in February, and a budget is released in March. However, the first sitting of this spring’s session will be on April 6, which will also be budget day.

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In the meantime, the government said in a release, “To help protect Saskatchewan people and businesses through the global COVID-19 pandemic, the $200 million health and public safety contingency has been drawn down, with $160 million in new contingency allocations. Combined with other spending needs for the 2020-21 fiscal year, this required the issuing of February special warrants totaling $322.8 million.”

“These special warrants are needed for pandemic-related costs, as well as for health system requirements, AgriInvest Program payments, and highways construction and winter maintenance,” Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said in a release. “In part through these special warrants, as well as in-year appropriation approved earlier in the fiscal year, our government has drawn down the Health and Public Safety Contingency.”

Trent Wotherspoon, NDP Finance Critic, said in an emailed statement on March 1, “The government’s announcement strengthens our call today to open the books and provide the 3rd Quarter financial report. They’re spending another $300 million without this basic act of accountability and transparency. We have called for the contingency fund to be used to fight COVID-19 and support families, businesses and jobs for months. The Sask. Party has failed to make that happen. There should have been a plan in place long ago to make much-needed investments in an open and transparent manner.

“This province is at a critical point in our economic history.

“The people of Saskatchewan deserve to have all the information available. All we get from the Sask. Party is more delays, more mismanagement and less transparency.”

Details

The new contingency allocations totaling $160 million, consist of:

  • $75.6 million for Saskatchewan Health Authority COVID pressures
  • $20 million for the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment Program
  • $17 million for Tourism supports
  • $14.2 million for Municipal Grants for Growth
  • $12.3 million for Public Safety response
  • $9.9 million for Custody Services
  • $5.5 million for the Chief Electoral Officer
  • $3.2 million for Court Service enhancements
  • $1.8 million for SaskPoly Dental Lab renovations
  • $500,000 for Conexus Arts Centre support

The first $40 million of the $200 million contingency was allocated to the Safe School Plan in the first quarter of the 2020-21 fiscal year, to support the safe re-opening on K-12 schools in the province.

Six ministries required special warrants, including:

  • $179.5 million for Health
    • $75.0 million for service pressures in the Saskatchewan Health Authority
    • $52.9 million for various costs across the health system including the response to COVID-19 and settled collective bargaining
    • $50.3 million for equipment purchases for the response to COVID-19
    • $1.3 million for asset development costs for the new physician claims management system
  • $96.6 million for Highways
    • $57.0 million due to a good season with more contractors completing more work than a typical season
    • $23.0 million in pressures for winter maintenance
    • $14.2 million for municipal grants to stimulate economic growth and allow contractors to prepare for the upcoming season
    • $2.4 million to provide federal funding to Transwest Air for scheduled air services to five communities in northern Saskatchewan under the federal-provincial contribution agreement with Transport Canada
  • $35.4 million for Corrections, Policing and Public Safety
    • $15.7 million for Custody Services primarily due to operational pressures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as salary costs related to overtime
    • $13.8 million for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, primarily due to COVID-19 response measures
    • $5.9 million for the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program for increased disaster claim payments
  • $5.1 million for Justice and Attorney General
    • $3.174 million for Courts Services due to additional operational requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic
    • $1.156 million for Boards, Commissions and Independent Offices for utilization pressures in the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, the Human Rights Commission and the Office of Residential Tenancies
    • $770,000 for Innovation and Legal Services due to higher usage of the ISC Corporate Registry and to cover falloff in revenue to the Queen’s Printer Revolving Fund due to the pandemic
  • $4.4 million for Agriculture for the AgriInvest Program based on the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada winter forecast
  • $1.8 million for Advanced Education for Saskatchewan Polytechnic to upgrade its dental lab facility to ensure compliance with COVID-19 Protocols

Special warrant amounts will be included in the Supplementary Estimates No. 2, which will be tabled on budget day, April 6, 2021.

 

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