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Saskatchewan's Moe says revenue, length of pandemic behind doubt on 2024 deficit goal


REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says revenue uncertainty is why his government doubts it will eliminate the province's $2-billion deficit by a campaign pledge of 2024. 

He confirms a balanced budget will not be included in the four-year fiscal outlook when his Saskatchewan Party government unveils next year's budget in April. 

The Opposition NDP have accused Moe of breaking a promise he made during last fall's provincial election campaign when he said he would clear the deficit by 2024. 

The premier hasn't said he swayed from a campaign commitment.

Moe says there's a lot of uncertainty about what the government can expect to bring in for revenue in the next few years, including commodity prices. 

He also says the COVID-19 pandemic has gone on longer than expected and vaccinations will take awhile, both of which impact people's jobs and provincial coffers.

Moe says another unknown is what kind of financial support the government will be asked to provide, and it isn't willing to sacrifice services. 

“We’re going to continue to work through the financial situation that we have. We’re going to balance the budget as soon as we are able," Moe said Wednesday. 

“It is still entirely possible that the budget is going to balance by 2024. You aren’t going to see that in the fiscal forecast, but we need to understand also that the revenue variability that we will see over the course of the next three to four years is going to change, and it’s going to change drastically.”

In a statement, Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the premier misled residents during the election, and owes them an apology. 

Meili added that Moe hasn't provided concrete examples of how the province's situation has changed since the October vote, which justifies a different fiscal outlook. 

Speaking to a convention of rural leaders earlier Wednesday, Moe said in a keynote speech that the upcoming budget is going to be focused on growth. 

He said more money will be spent dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting long-term care. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 10, 2021

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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