Saskatchewan legislative assembly
Adobe stock / Kevin Daugherty

The Saskatchewan government is spending $750 million more than it had budgeted this year, a move that’s raising questions from Opposition New Democrats.

The province approved the extra dollars this week through special warrants, a measure it uses when expenditures aren’t budgeted. Some of that spending is for health care, agriculture and environmental cleanup.

The government did not say how this affects the province’s forecasted $250-million deficit, noting the third-quarter financial reports are to be released in March.

Opposition NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon said Thursday special warrants are common, but an amount that exceeds more than $750 million is unprecedented.

“This is a wild amount,” Wotherspoon told reporters Thursday.

“It’s $750 million they didn’t plan for, and then no detail or transparency as to how those dollars are being deployed. And then no true state of our financial situation is being provided.”

He said the province used to issue news releases or have ministers take questions when it ordered special warrants in past years.

The province also used to release its third-quarter financial statement before the budget. Those are now unveiled on budget day.

“We don’t have a government answering how did they miss so badly? Where are the dollars going?” Wotherspoon asked.

The province says an additional $450 million has been spent on health care, which includes addressing system pressures and a new contract with doctors.

There is $86 million more for crop insurance payments as summer drought had hampered producers.

The province has also spent an additional $94 million for cleaning up abandoned uranium mines in the north, and $20 million for work involving an abandoned copper and gold mine near La Ronge.

The remaining extra dollars cover higher-than-budgeted winter maintenance for roads, pressures in youth care, gaming agreements with First Nations, staffing overtime in jails, community programs and research for small modular nuclear reactors.

A government spokesperson said in an email the special warrants only address expenses, not revenues.

“Any change in revenues would be reflected in the third-quarter financial report that is tabled on Budget Day,” said the email.

“The work to finalize the financials for the current fiscal year (ending March 31, 2024) is ongoing.”