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Provincial spending lower than expected

By Randy Thoms Oct 7, 2023 | 10:54 AM

Spending by the province was less than expected during the first three months of the 2023-24 fiscal year.

The Financial Accountability Office’s monitoring of expenditures during the first quarter shows the government spent $2.6 billion less than it had budgeted.

Health care saw a $1.2 billion reduction.

Acting Financial Accountability Officer Jeffrey Novak says it is not all that concerning.

“We identified some less-than-planned spending in the health sector, but that looks like it was because of a delay in recording payments for drug programs. When we do our second quarter, we’ll just see how that’s evened out,” says Novak.

The FAO also found less spending on postsecondary education and children, community and social services, but an increase in school board operating grants and child care.

Novak says the province also made a number of changes to its spending plan that led to more money for the areas of justice, children, community and social services and education.

The province also drew down $849 million for various programs from the contingency fund, leaving $3.2 billion.

“The contingency fund is just a program that allows the government to allocate funds to other programs based on needs. If there are pressures in programs, the government can use the contingency fund to support those programs. If there are new priorities that come up, like the land claim settlements, they are able to use money from the contingency fund for programs like that. And having a contingency fund allows the government to address those programs without having to come back to the legislature and ask for additional funding authority through supplementary estimates,” says Novak.

Novak says the government has money in a contingency fund for some time, but it is up to the government and MPPs to decide if its size is appropriate.