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Half time in the west

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Progressive Conservative Finance Critic Heather Stefanson recently asked in question period where Manitoba was in preparing its second quarter report, a report that details how the province is performing financially in the first half of the 2010-11 budget year (April to September).

Like, how much it’s spent and how much it’s taking in.

Finance Minister Rosanne Wowchuk replied that traditionally, the province doesn’t table its second quarter report until late in the year or even in January.

Stefanson countered British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan have already produced their second quarter reports.

If they can do it, why not Manitoba?

Wowchuk answered it doesn’t matter what the other provinces do.

"When they are released–it doesn't matter when Saskatchewan and Alberta release theirs, we have a tradition in Manitoba, and we will follow that tradition," Wowchuk said.

For clarity’s sake, here’s the Cole’s Notes on how the other three western provinces are doing:

 

Saskatchewan

Finance Minister Ken Krawetz said Nov. 25 the province is on track to finish the year with a $68.5 million surplus.

"The key factor in our improved results is the increased strength in corporate profits," Krawetz said in a news release. "Our Corporation Income Tax revenues have increased significantly, which has offset some additional expenses related to flooding and other areas."

The Mid-Year report shows the province is expected to finish the year with a pre-transfer surplus of $137 million. Half of that surplus - $68.5 million - will be moved into the Growth and Financial Security Fund, which will put the fund balance at $1.02 billion by year-end, up $516 million from budget.

Overall, revenue is forecasted to finish the year at $10.68 billion, up $726.2 million from budget. Expense is forecasted to come in at $10.54 billion, up $415 million from budget.

Both oil and potash revenues are showing upside strength, resulting in a $100.7 million increase in non-renewable resource revenue from First Quarter. Potash sales volumes are expected to more than double in 2010 to 8.8 million tonnes, from last year's low of 3.7 million tonnes.

The biggest revenue improvements come in Corporation Income Tax revenue, which is expected to come in $340 million higher than expected and in Crown land sales, which are up by $252.7 million from budget. These gains are offset somewhat by lower Individual Income Tax revenue, a reflection of reduced 2009 investment income experienced in Saskatchewan and across the country.

 

Alberta

The oil province issued its second quarter fiscal report Nov. 22.

The highlights:

- Revenue for 2010-11 is forecast at $34.1 billion, up $127 million from budget

- Expense for 2010-11 is forecast at $39.1 billion, an increase of $384 million from budget - mainly for disaster and emergency funding

- Deficit for 2010-11 is forecast at $5.0 billion, an increase of $257 million from budget

- Sustainability Fund assets forecast at $11.0 billion for year-end, an increase of $2.8 billion from budget

"We said we would control our spending and we have done that," Finance and Enterprise Minister Ted Morton said in a news release. "In fact, when you factor out spending for disasters and emergencies, government expense is forecast to be $150 million lower than budgeted. We can’t control forest fires, floods and drought, but we still have to pay for them.

"We also can’t control what happens to energy prices, the Canadian dollar, equity markets or the U.S. economy—all of which affect our revenues. But we will continue to control what we can and we are resolved to getting back in the black in 2012-13."

 

British Columbia

Finance Minister Colin Hansen released B.C.’s second quarterly report Nov. 25.

He said the province remains on track to meet its budgeted deficit target of $1.7 billion despite the impact of slowing economic growth on revenues.

The report says B.C.’s projected bottom line for 2010/11 has deteriorated by $315 million since the first Quarterly Report. Revenue projections have declined by $253 million primarily

due to lower personal income tax projections, while spending increased slightly by $62 million.

Taxpayer-supported capital spending is forecast to be $5.3 billion in 2010/11, $298 million lower than the first Quarterly Report forecast.

At $33.8 billion, the taxpayer-supported debt forecast is $96 million higher than the projection in the first Quarterly Report, primarily due to an increase in direct operating debt.

 

Manitoba

Last year the Manitoba government released its 2009-10 second quarter report three days before Christmas.

That report projected a $592-million deficit for year-end, a $640-million negative adjustment to the $48-million summary surplus the province originally predicted in its March 2009 budget. The recession, fighting that year’s spring flood and dealing with a potental H1N1 flu outbreak hit the books hard.

The recession prompted the NDP to produce a five-year economic recovery plan in its March 2010 budget. It will see the province carry five years of summary deficit budgets as it climbs out of the hole. The province has said it will be back in the black by 2014 with a surplus of $185 million.

In September, when the province released its first-quarter results, Wowchuk said the recovery is going more quickly than first thought. She said this budget year’s deficit has been sliced by more than half to $201 million from $555 million.

With Christmas just around the corner, you’ve got to wonder if the province will say it’s been sliced by even more, that Manitoba is performing way, way better than NDP feared in the March budget.

Which, of course, sets us up for the April budget, the one the NDP really, really needs to catapult them into the summer election campaign and back into another majority government.

Like, how can you make a campaign promise in one breath and then in another you say you haven’t got any money?

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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