Today, Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer released the Moe Government’s 2023-24 budget. Building on the relative economic strength of the province, this budget includes a record $18.7 billion in total spending, $1 billion higher than 2022-23. The budget also forecasts a surplus of $1 billion in 2023-24.
Saskatchewan Budget 2023 focuses on investments in a number of priorities, including health care, education, social safety nets and the protection of people and property. This budget aims to further strengthen a strong and growing economy focused on trade and exports, while building a stronger Saskatchewan.
This budget features a record $7.1 billion in health spending including $518 million for mental health and addictions programs and services, and $42.5 million to reduce the surgical waitlist. It also includes increases to the Ministry of Health’s budget of 6.7 per cent over last year.
A full breakdown of the health commitments in Saskatchewan Budget 2023 can be found below.
Health Care Commitments
Health care is one of the central focuses of the budget this year. Clear health care priorities of the Saskatchewan government include attracting, training, and retaining health care professionals, reducing surgical wait times, providing long-term care services, focusing on mental health and addictions and investing in health care capital.
Specific health care investments include:
- $6.9 billion in for the Ministry of Health, an increase of $431 million or 6.7 per cent from 2022-23.
- $337.6 million into health care capital, including Prince Albert Victoria Hospital, Weyburn General Hospital, and long-term care facilities in Grenfell and La Ronge.
- A $191.4 million increase in operating funding for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), bringing the total for the SHA to $4.4 billion.
- $55.5 million, a $44.9 million increase from last year’s budget, in health care funding as part of an overall, government-wide investment of $98.8 million for the Health Human Resource (HHR) Action Plan to recruit, train, incentivize and retain provincial health care workers and physicians.
- $22 million allocated for 250 new full-time positions and expanding part-time positions in rural and remote areas around the province.
- $11.9 million to support the recruitment of internationally educated health care workers.
- $5.8 million to the College of Medicine for new academic and research positions, new specialty residency seats and new family medicine seats.
- A $42.5 million funding increase to the surgical wait time strategy which will provide for an additional 6,000 surgeries, to 103,000 in total, to reduce the waitlist to pre-pandemic levels by March 2024, one year earlier than anticipated.
- A $39 million increase to support the health and care of seniors, including $17.6 million to procure additional long-term care beds in Regina and $9.3 million to support third-party long-term care providers.
- $5.5 million to hire 75 continuing care assistants (CCAs), the final phase of the three-year $18.4 million government commitment to hire 300 additional CCAs to deliver home care and support seniors living in long-term care facilities.
- A $19.8 million increase for 64 permanent acute care beds, 36 at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon and 28 at Pasqua Hospital in Regina.
- $8.8 million to enhance Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in rural and remote areas, with additional funding supporting contracted EMS operators and EMS system and radio upgrades.
- A $7 million increase for more medical imaging, primarily CT and MRI scans, a $2.6 million increase for more endoscopy procedures, and $6.0 million to enhance intensive care unit capacity.
- An investment of $518 million into mental health and addictions programs and services, a increase of $12.4 million over last year. The increase will fund initiatives that provide effective counselling and treatments and introduce further proactive prevention measures. New funding will support the second phase of a 150 additional addictions treatment spaces commitment and provide funding for 50 newly established treatment spaces.
- The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency will receive a further $2.9 million, or 1.3 per cent increase in the 2023-24 Budget, for oncology drugs and additional direct support staff. It brings the SCA’s annual grant to $222.7 million, the highest ever.
Analysis: A “Business as Usual” Budget
With the next election not scheduled until the fall of 2024, and with the incumbent Saskatchewan Party riding high in the polls, this is a “business as usual” budget focusing on growth and reflective of a strong economy and robust resource revenues.
In addition to a touting a strong surplus of $1 billion which will be used to pay down operating debt, this budget speaks to fiscally conservative themes with no new tax measures, no tax increases and reducing interest costs.
Outside of health commitments, the budget’s “investment in people” includes $382.4 million for child care, reducing child care fees to $10 a day for children under six years of age and $1.7 billion in record funding for social services and assistance. Through this budget the government is also “investing in the economy” with $297.9 million in record Municipal Revenue Sharing, part of $503 million in direct provincial support to municipalities, $249.1 million of targeted funding for First Nations and Métis people and organizations, which includes funding for economic initiatives and partnerships, $38 million for agriculture research and innovation, as well as an expansion of the Targeted Mineral Exploration Tax Credit, and funding for a new trade office in Germany.
Saskatchewan’s 2023 Budget is also “investing in capital” via $3.7 billion in record capital investment for hospitals, schools, highways and several municipal and Crown projects. It also includes $152.3 million for education capital to support new projects and $442.9 million into transportation capital, including projects on provincial highways.
Today’s budget caps off the first few weeks of the third session of the 29th legislature which will run until the end of May. The next Saskatchewan general election is scheduled for October 28, 2024, with the writ drop expected on September 30 of next year. Premier Scott Moe is currently the second most popular Premier in the country with a 60% approval rating.
On its website, the Saskatchewan Party highlights several aspects of its record on health care while in government. This includes investing a record $5.8 billion in health care in 2020-21 — a 67% increase since forming government — investment in mental health and addictions, the construction of four new hospitals, hiring more health care workers, building new long-term care facilities, adding new MRI services and funding of cancer treatment.
The Saskatchewan NDP’s website features several petitions that are likely indicative of the party’s health care priorities. These include improving long-term care, universal pharmacare, increasing to ten paid sick days, addressing emergency wait room times and creating a bipartisan legislative committee on the mental health and addictions crisis.