Saskatchewan is forecasting a $1.1 billion surplus for 2022-23 in its mid-year financial report released on Tuesday.
That figure is up by $1.6 billion from the last provincial budget released in March, according to the province. The surplus was forecast at $1.04 billion in the government’s first quarter fiscal update, released in August.
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said resources and a strong economy are the reason for the increase.
Revenue is forecast to be up from budget, largely the result of high potash and oil prices, as well as higher taxation revenue which reflects solid economic growth,” Harpauer said in a release.
“Using higher-than-expected revenue to help people and businesses address higher costs due to inflation, while reducing the provinces debt, is growth that works for everyone.
The province is currently forecasting revenue to be $19.5 billion, a 13.7 per cent increase ($2.4 billion) from the original prediction when the last provincial budget was released.
However, it also cautioned that potash prices have declined in the latter half of 2022, mainly due to supply from Russia and Belarus reaching the market.
According to the province, expenses are up $795 million from budget and $286.8 million since its first quarter report.
The province said most of that increase ($450 million) is due to the Saskatchewan Affordability Tax Credit, which will see around 900,000 $500 cheques mailed out to people over 18-years-of-age who filed their taxes in Saskatchewan last year.
Harpauer said at this time paying down the province’s deficit will be their priority now that affordability issues have been addressed to an extent.
“We felt strengthening the debt position that we are in was a better decision because it also helps us in future budgets.”
According to Harpauer, about 600,000 affordability cheques have been mailed out so far.
“Most of them will be in the next week to ten days, there will be some lag on those who were late filers,” she said.
Another $204.3 million in expenses is from expected increases in Saskatchewan Crop Insurance indemnities and AgraStability benefits that were paid out in 2021 and 2022.
A third quarter report will be released before the province announces its next budget in 2023.
The province has not seen a fortune this large since 2008-09, when it reported a surplus of $2.97 billion.
Saskatchewan NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said while Saskatchewan people are facing the worst affordability crisis in over a generation, the province is seeing the opposite with very high revenues.
“That’s a positive thing, but the disconnect is that we have a government that is just simply not up to the test of rising to the challenge that Saskatchewan people are facing,” Wotherspoon said.
“They’re leaving people drowning. We up our call once again for the government to come to their senses here in this year where we’ve seen revenues that have been driven through the roof by an external and extraordinary and unforgettable situation by way of [Vladimir] Putin in Ukraine.”
Wotherspoon said the NDP would like to see the province cancel rate hikes for power and energy and do more heavy lifting.
“We’ve got a pile of new dollars and a government that is simply unwilling to provide the relief that Saskatchewan people need,” Wotherspoon said.