2024 goal in doubt: Saskatchewan premier won't say how long deficits to last

REGINA — Saskatchewan's premier isn't saying yet how much longer his province could run deficits.

Scott Moe says details of a plan to return the province to balance will be outlined next month when his Saskatchewan Party government presents its next budget.

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"Would I want to balance the budget by 2024? Absolutely. Will we be able to balance the budget by 2024? We're going to see in the next number of years," Moe said during a briefing Tuesday.

His finance minister has said eliminating the province's $2-billion deficit by the premier's election goal of 2024 will be difficult because of a slower economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donna Harpauer said Monday financial projections are still being finalized, but it appears to be likely the government will have to choose a new target date.

Moe wouldn't say when that might be, only that the next few years will dictate what happens.

The premier said he isn't willing to jeopardize services to residents or efforts to bring back thousands of jobs lost during the pandemic in budget talks.

"We're going to support the services that the people of this province expect and we're going to support the full return of jobs in the economic recovery of Saskatchewan communities," said Moe.

"We have throughout this process been very clear that the provincial government will be here to protect the citizens of this province."

The government says it was on track to dig itself out of the red, but the COVID-19 health crisis thwarted that plan.

"Scott Moe has never balanced a budget," Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili tweeted on Monday.

"Just another broken promise while Scott Moe turns a blind eye to critical needs of our province."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021

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