Wednesday's provincial budget in Saskatchewan will likely become part of the debate here Under the Dome as Manitoba politicians pick apart Rosann Wowchuk's financial blueprint.
Saskatchewan, unlike all other provinces and the federal government, posted a "balanced" budget this spring -- as a fact box in today's newspaper showed.
'Why couldn't we have done the same thing here?' the opposition will likely ask.
A little closer look at Saskatchewan's numbers, however, shows that the real picture there may not be that different from our own.
Manitoba is projecting a "summary budget" deficit of $545 million for the fiscal year beginning April 1. Summary budgeting, introduced here a few years ago, takes into account core government departments as well as pension obligations and the financial health of our Crown corporations.
According to the Regina LeaderPost, Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada not to state its financial status in this way. If it had used summary accounting, it would have had to post a deficit of $622.7 million for 2010-11 yesterday, instead of a $20-million surplus.
Now, that doesn't mean there is no ammunition in the Saskatchewan budget for those who want to criticize the Selinger government.
In its core government operations, Saskatchewan cut spending by $121.3 million (1.2 per cent) from what they budgeted the previous year. (However, spending is forecast to rise a smidgen -- nearly $12 million -- from Saskatchewan's latest estimates for 2009-2010.)
Manitoba, on the other hand, is boosting its spending by 5.2 per cent compared with last year's budgeted amount and 1.6 per cent compared with its latest estimates for the current year ending March 31.
On a core-government basis, Manitoba is projecting a $498-million deficit for 2010-2011.
Also of note, Saskatchewan forecasts that it will spend more than it takes in this coming year ($10.12 billion vs. $9.95 billion) and is only showing an operating surplus because it's taking $194.2 million from its rainy-day fund.
Again, according to the LeaderPost, Saskatchewan is also taking the "unprecedented step" of taking a dividend equal to 100 per cent of the profits for all the province's Crown corporations except for SaskPower.
Hmmm. Balancing the books with the help of a rainy-day fund. Raiding the Crown corporations.
Doesn't this all sound familiar?