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Saskatchewan says revenues could decline by up to $3.3B due to COVID-19


REGINA — The Saskatchewan government predicted Friday that the economic fallout from COVID-19 could reduce the province's revenues by up to $3.3 billion.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer noted it's still early days and it remains unclear how long restrictions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus will be in place.

But different GDP and oil price scenarios suggest revenue in the 2020-21 fiscal year could decline between $1.3 billion and $3.3 billion, she said.

Premier Scott Moe said his Saskatchewan Party government will go ahead next week with its plan to lay out how and when it may lift some restrictions on businesses and services that have had to close to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Moe said allowing more businesses to open will mean more people going back to work and boosting the economy.

"Expanding the list of allowable businesses and services ... impacts the general economy of the province, but I would say the largest impact is to the general finances of family after family."

Health officials reported one new case and one presumptive case of COVID-19 for a total of 307. They said 228 people have recovered.

The chief medical health officer said while overall cases are low, there's a concern about new ones in long-term care homes. 

Dr. Saqib Shahab said a second staff member at an assisted living facility in Regina tested positive for COVID-19 and three residents were showing symptoms.

There is also an outbreak in the northern community of La Loche tied to a long-term care facility, he said.

Moe said the province is likely to keep seeing flare-ups as it tries to slow the spread of the virus.

In terms of finances, Harpauer said government spending is likely to increase from estimates released last month that, because of the pandemic and an oil-price collapse, didn't include revenue projects.

She said reducing the work week or cutting wages for public-sector employees are not being considered for now.

"The agreements that we have with our public sector that are already in place and have been ratified we will honour those agreements. We will probably review any going forward, of course, because our fiscal situation has dramatically changed," she said.

"We're going to have to be very mindful of our expenditures going forward."

NDP Opposition Leader Ryan Meili called on the premier to allow for some kind of legislative oversight in light of the financial projections.

Moe has already rejected Meili's suggestion of a committee of NDP and government members, as well as local leaders, to respond to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, RCMP said they have received nearly 900 calls since the beginning of March with complaints about people not properly self-isolating or meeting in groups larger than 10. Mounties said most of the calls were dealt with by educating people about public health orders.

However, 13 charges have been laid, police said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2020

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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