The premier of Saskatchewan says the dust-up between his government and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan can be attributed to the way the province has kept its books since 2014.
APAS, led by vice-president Ian Boxall, has raised concerns about the provincial government blaming its record-high projected deficit of $2.7 billion on increased crop insurance payments to drought-affected farmers. The minister of finance delivered the messaging around the province’s mid-year fiscal update on Monday.
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer and Agriculture Minister David Marit responded with a sharply-worded letter to APAS president Todd Lewis on Wednesday calling APAS’ claims “ignorant or deceitful.” The ministers also asked Boxall to retract his comments in the letter, which NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon described as “a condescending, threatening display.”
Speaking with RealAgriculture at the Grow Canada conference in Calgary late Wednesday, Premier Scott Moe said he had not yet read the back-and-forth between APAS and his ministers, but that he believes the disagreement revolves around the summary accounting standard the province implemented in 2014. Under this methodology, the province is required to report income and expenses across all government operations, including provincially-controlled entities, such as the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation.
One of the points APAS is trying to make is that the provincial crop insurance program has built up a surplus over the years, and higher payments this year are simply drawing down that surplus. “Over the last several years, claims have been lower than premiums, which is why a surplus built up over time,” noted Boxall.
“That money is already there as it is a self-funded program…but it is on the government books when it flows out, so both are actually true,” says Moe, in the interview below. “It is a funded program, but it is also recorded as an expense when it comes to what the provincial deficit is.”
Echoing earlier comments from Harpauer, Moe says the province would have been much closer to breaking even if not for a projected $2.4 billion in crop insurance claims.
“If you were to remove that, hypothetically, we’re looking at about a three, four hundred million dollar deficit in the province,” he says.
Moe also noted that he knows APAS’ Lewis well, and that “he does a wonderful job” for APAS.
Listen to Premier Scott Moe’s brief comments on the dispute over the messaging around crop insurance payouts and the provincial deficit: