BY RICHARD GILBERT - The Saskatchewan Budget 2014 will generate a surplus while maintaining capital spending on the construction of infrastructure and increasing support for apprenticeship training.
“It’s a great budget,” said Karen Low, executive director of Merit Contractors Association Saskatchewan.
“They have managed to balance the budget, while continuing their commitment to infrastructure spending and moving ahead with some very important projects in the province. These are some really good things for our sector for sure.”
Finance Minister Ken Krawetz tabled the Saskatchewan 2014-15 provincial budget in Regina on March 19, which allocates $886.9 million on a range of infrastructure projects. This represents an increase of $39.4 million or 4.7 per cent compared to last year.
The capital budget includes key investments in schools, health care facilities including hospitals and long-term care facilities, post-secondary institutions, roads, highways and municipal infrastructure.
Saskatchewan’s major Crown corporations, including SaskPower, SaskTel and SaskEnergy are projected to spend $2.0 billion on capital projects in 2014-15.
This represents an increase of $100 million or 5.3 per cent from last year.
Krawetz described the budget as tight, because it controls government spending and avoids new taxation. The budget forecasts a surplus of $71 million.
“Overall the provincial budget did not have any surprises, which is good,” said Mark Cooper, president of the Saskatchewan Construction Association.
“It continues a pattern of responsible governance and financial management, which we appreciate as an industry.”
Revenue for 2014-15 is projected at $14.07 billion, which is down 0.7 per cent from last year, while expense is estimated to be $14.0 billion, down 0.2 per cent.
The 2014-15 budget also continues to invest more in training opportunities to address Saskatchewan’s labour market shortages.
“We are glad to see the government investing in the apprenticeship system in Saskatchewan,” said Terry Parker, business manager with the Saskatchewan Building Trades Council.
“There is a lot more to be done, but we feel this is a move in the right direction. We are glad to see the government focus on apprenticeship training.”
New measures to support apprenticeship training include a $1 million increase for the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission for 300 additional training seats in 2014-15.
This brings total funding to a total of $22.2 million and total seats to 6,700.
There is also a $500,000 increase for the Apprenticeship Training Allowance and $924,000 increase for the Provincial Training Allowance.
Some of the key infrastructure investments include $405.2 million to provide provincial highway and transportation infrastructure upgrades.
This includes twinning Highway 16 from Saskatoon to Clavet, pre-construction work on a number of twinning projects on Highways 6, 7 and 39, and pre-construction work for future passing lanes on Highway 7 from Delisle to Rosetown.
There is $50 million for the Regina stadium project and $32.6 million transferred for post-secondary capital initiatives, which is an increase of $7.1 million, or about 28 per cent over last year.
The government will invest $16.0 million to complete the new hospital in Moose Jaw and $2.0 million to begin planning the renewal of Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert.
The planning of a new commuter bridge in the north industrial area of Saskatoon will begin this year with funding expected to flow in 2015-16.
Due diligence associated with the Regina Bypass P3 Project and work on the west portion of the bypass continues this year.
Planning is also continuing for the bundle of nine joint-use schools. Each building will have separate public and catholic schools in Saskatoon, Warman, Martensville and Regina.