The provincial government opened the Legislature on Monday and presented their budget for 2020, a little late from normal times, but late is better than never.
As with most everything these days, the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on both the timing and the content of the budget, causing Finance minister Donna Harpauer to note that the deficit in this budget is “a pandemic deficit”.
The cost of the government responding to the pandemic will add about $1.9 billion to the debt of the province as it stands right now — and who knows what the balance of 2020 will bring?
The fear that is on everyone’s mind is, “will there be a second wave of COVID?” If there is a second wave, what will the impact be? We can hardly sustain another major hit to the economy, after this one has impacted on the lives of every man, woman and child in this country and indeed, around the world.
Meantime, the budget from the provincial government has to lay out the revenues and expenses for every department, covering everything from health care and education to municipalities, highways and roads to agriculture and social services, infrastructure, energy and resources, and everything else under the purview of the administration, and it all has to take into consideration how the pandemic affects it.
The Official Opposition, the NDP, is critical of the budget, saying that the government has no plan for how the province is going to recover from COVID-19, and notes there are shortcomings for areas of need.
These areas include child care, seniors, and resources for schools which will be reopening in September for classes, unless circumstances arise where that won’t be possible.
These are legitimate concerns to bring up, but the question that arises is, “okay, how would you address it then?” There weren’t really many suggestions put forward for how else this could’ve been handled.
Considering that the pandemic is already putting a big strain on resources for all levels of government, one has to think that to address everything would mean adding even more to the debt.
Don’t forget, the federal government is already mounting a huge debt right now, in the billions of dollars, and it will be largely falling upon us as taxpayers as we take on all of this debt in the years to come.
There is one other factor for the provincial government, and that is the provincial election in October.
In our democratic system, this is ultimately where we as the residents and taxpayers of the province will levy our judgment as to whether the government did enough, did too much, or were completely inadequate in taking care of us.