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Sask. Opposition focuses on debt ahead of budget day

The Saskatchewan NDP focused squarely on the province's debt Monday, two days before the provicnial government is slated to table its annual budget. (CBC News - image credit)
The Saskatchewan NDP focused squarely on the province's debt Monday, two days before the provicnial government is slated to table its annual budget. (CBC News - image credit)

Saskatchewan's Opposition NDP spent Monday talking about the province's debt, ahead of budget day this Wednesday.

The NDP said the province is $31 billion in debt, clarifying that the number includes debt from Crown corporations, treasury board Crowns and entities that rely on government funding.

The province responded by saying it has paid down $2.5 billion in operating debt over the past two fiscal years.

Last year on budget day, Premier Scott Moe's government projected a $1-billion surplus, but that had flipped to a $250-million deficit by the time the most recent budget update came out. The Opposition said the final number would be much worse, pointing to $757 million recently spent through special warrants.

"This is what happens when you have a government that's in power, has been in power for over 17 years, and when they've stopped listening and when they've run out of ideas," Opposition Leader Carla Beck said Monday.

Both Beck and NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said the province's debt has increased due to mismanagement, and that projects such as the $1.8-billion Regina Bypass are to blame for unbalanced budgets.

"Saskatchewan people work hard for their tax dollars. They expect their government to spend better, not just more," Wotherspoon said.

Official Opposition Leader Carla Beck, and Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon said the government's financial mismanagement has lead to an increase in debt over the past 6 years.
Official Opposition Leader Carla Beck, and Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon said the government's financial mismanagement has lead to an increase in debt over the past 6 years.

Official Opposition Leader Carla Beck and finance critic Trent Wotherspoon blamed government mismanagement for an increase in debt over the past six years. (CBC News)

Canadian Taxpayers Federation weighs in

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) brought its "debt clock" to the Saskatchewan Legislature Building on Monday.

The CTF said that it expects the province to increase its debt by $400 million this year and that the province has spent $2.5 billion on interest in the last five years.

"That's money that can't be used for tax relief, can't be used for programs. All of it is wasted on the interest because of the bad decisions of prior governments," said Gage Haubrich, Prairie director for the CTF.

Canadian Taxpayers federation Prairie Dircetor, Gage Haubrich, says that the governments debt could lead to a $15,000 price tag for taxpayers.
Canadian Taxpayers federation Prairie Dircetor, Gage Haubrich, says that the governments debt could lead to a $15,000 price tag for taxpayers.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairie director Gage Haubrich says the provincial debt amonts to a $15,000 price tag per person in the province. (CBC News)

Haubrich said the province's debt amounts to more than $15,000 per person in the province.

"So look in your bank account and see if you can spare $15,500 to pay back that debt," Haubrich said.

Province responds

The province responded to the concerns raised by the CTF and the NDP in an emailed response to CBC News.

"Over the last two fiscal years the Government of Saskatchewan has paid down $2.5 billion in operating debt, saving taxpayers close to $100 million in interest payments every year," the statement said. "That money can then be reinvested in programs and services our residents rely on."

The province also said it maintains the second lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio in the nation at 13.3 per cent, second to Alberta.

The province said it will provide the latest projection of gross debt and net debt-to-GDP ratio when it tables the 2024-25 provincial budget on Wednesday.