THE Opposition Conservatives are calling on the province to launch a formal review of its spending programs after it was revealed last week nine government departments are projected to come in over budget.

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THE Opposition Conservatives are calling on the province to launch a formal review of its spending programs after it was revealed last week nine government departments are projected to come in over budget.

The over-spending occurred despite the fact that the government has long known it would face huge non-budgeted costs as a result of last spring's flood.

Tory finance critic Heather Stefanson said Thursday the NDP has an "out of control spending addiction."

"I'm very concerned about where this government is going," she said.

Flood costs and the billion-plus deficit were the big topics of discussion when the government issued its third-quarter financial report for the 2011-2012 fiscal year that ends March 31. But after removing flood costs from the equation, the province's deficit is still slated to balloon to $629 million compared with $438 million budgeted last April 12.

The largest case of department over-spending is occurring in Family Services and Labour (see accompanying story) at $59 million. But several other departments are also significantly over budget, including Justice, which is now projected to spend close to $29 million more than the $429 million originally allocated to it.

Jodee Mason, a government spokeswoman, said the rising costs of incarcerating a growing number of inmates, a new program targeting high-risk fugitives and the initial costs of funding the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry are behind the unanticipated rise in Justice costs.

She said Agriculture spending is up because of higher-than-anticipated support to livestock and grain farmers, while Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade has overspent due to higher employment and income assistance costs. Infrastructure and Transportation ($19.2 million over) spending is up because of higher-than-expected road maintenance and winter road costs and unaccounted-for flood expenses.

"The bottom line is when the global downturn hit, it created challenges for economies everywhere. We took action. We said no to deep cuts and committed to a balanced approach that protected jobs and services for families," Mason said in an email. She also noted that while spending in nine departments is over budget, it's on schedule or under budget in 10 other areas.

Kelvin Goertzen, the Conservative justice critic, was puzzled that the long-anticipated Phoenix Sinclair inquiry was among the reasons the Justice Department was over budget.

"They either didn't plan for the inquiry to go ahead at this time and didn't budget for it. Or they didn't budget for it properly, not knowing what the nature of the inquiry would be. Either one would be troubling."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

 

Departments forecast to be over budget:

Family Services and Labour -- by $59 million

Education -- by $2.7 million

Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives -- by $18.9 million

Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade -- by $11.8 million

Infrastructure and Transportation -- by $19.2 million

Innovation, Energy and Mines -- by $6.3 million

Local Government -- by $8.1 million

Departments forecast to be under budget:

Health -- by $53.2 million

Advanced Education and Literacy -- by $4.9 million

Aboriginal and Northern Affairs -- by $3.3 million

Conservation and Water Stewardship -- by $2.1 million

Finance -- by $1.8 million

Employee pensions and other costs -- by $3.6 million

-- Source: Manitoba Finance

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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